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Full text of "Jewish History, Jewish Religion"

Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel 



Pluto Middle Eastern Studies 

Also available 

Jewish History, Jewish Religion 
The Weight of Three Thousand Years 
Israel Shahak 

Open Secrets 

Israeli Foreign and Nuclear Policies 

Israel Shahak 



Jewish Fundamentalism 
in Israel 



Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky 



* 



Pluto Wf ^1 Press 

LONDON • STERLING, VIRGINIA 



First published 1999 by Pluto Press 
345 Archway Road, London N6 5AA 
and 22883 Quicksilver Drive, 
Sterling, VA 20166-2012, USA 

Copyright © Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky 1999 

The right of Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky to be 
identified as the authors of this work has been asserted 
by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs 
and Patents Act 1988 

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data 

A catalogue record for this book is available from the 

British Library 

ISBN 7453 1281 hbk 
ISBN 7453 1276 4 pbk 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 
Shahak, Israel. 

Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel / Israel Shahak and Norton 
Mezvinsky. 

p. cm. — (Pluto Middle Eastern series) 
Includes bibliographical references and index. 
ISBN 0-7453-1281-0 (hbk.) 

1 . Orthodox Judaism — Israel — Controversial literature. 
2. Orthodox Judaism — Political aspects — Israel. 3. Political 
violence — Israel. I. Mezvinsky, Norton. II. Tide. III. Series. 
BM390.S486 1999 

296'.095694 , 09045--dc2 1 99-30525 

CIP 



Reprints: 109876543 



Designed and Produced for Pluto Press by 
Chase Publishing Services, Sidmouth, EX10 9QG 
Typeset from disk by Stanford DTP Services, Towcester 
Printed in the European Union by 
Antony Rowe, Chippenham, England 



Contents 



Preface vi 

Glossary xiii 

Introduction 1 

1 Jewish Fundamentalism Within Jewish Society 5 

2 The Rise of the Haredim in Israel 23 

3 The Two Main Haredi Groups 44 

4 The National Religious Party and the Religious Settlers 55 

5 The Nature of Gush Emunim Settlements 78 

6 The Real Significance of Baruch Goldstein 96 

7 The Religious Background of Rabin's Assassination 1 13 

Note on Bibliography and Related Matters 150 

Notes 164 

Index 169 



Preface 



Virtually identified with Arab terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism 
is anathema throughout the non-Muslim world. Virtually identified 
with ignorance, superstition, intolerance and racism, Christian 
fundamentalism is anathema to the cultural and intellectual elite 
in the United States. The recent significant increase in its number 
of adherents, combined with its widening political influence, 
nevertheless, make Christian fundamentalism a real threat to 
democracy in the United States. Although possessing nearly all the 
important social scientific properties of Islamic and Christian fun- 
damentalism, Jewish fundamentalism is practically unknown outside 
of Israel and certain sections of a few other places. When its 
existence is acknowledged, its significance is minimized or limited 
to arcane religious practices and quaint middle European dress, 
most often by those same non-Israeli elite commentators who see 
so uncompromisingly the evils inherent in Jewish fundamentalis- 
m's Islamic and/or Christian cousins. 

As students of contemporary society and as Jews, one Israeli, one 
American, with personal commitments and attachments to the 
Middle East, we cannot help seeing Jewish fundamentalism in 
Israel as a major obstacle to peace in the region. Nor can we help 
being dismayed by the dismissal of the perniciousness of Jewish fun- 
damentalism to peace and to its victims by those who are otherwise 
knowledgeable and astute and so quick to point out the violence 
inherent in other fundamentalist approaches to existence. 

This book is a journey of understanding - often painful, often 
dreary, often disturbing - for us as Jews who have a stake in Jewry. 
With our hearts and minds we want Jews, together with other 
people, to recognize and strive for the highest ideals, even as we 
fall short of them. We see these ideals as central to the values of 
Western civilization and applicable throughout the civilized world. 
We believe these values do not stand in the way of peace anywhere. 
That a perversion of these values in the name of Jewish funda- 
mentalism stands as an impediment to peace, to the development 
of Israeli democracy and even to civilized discourse outrages us, 
both as Jews and as human beings. To identify and lessen, if not 
purge, this outrage, we have written this book and undertaken this 
journey in the hope that it may bring understanding to our readers 



PREFACE vii 

as it has brought understanding to us. Our assumption is that 
peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved until the currents and 
cross-currents of contemporary life in the region are understood. 
In this most historical and most religious area, understanding 
entails an exploration of the past that continues to impinge upon 
the attitudes, values, assumptions and behaviors of all the people 
of this beautiful and troubled land. Jewish opposition in Israel to 
Jewish fundamentalism greatly increased after a Jewish, funda- 
mentalist, religious fanatic, Yigal Amir, who insisted that he was 
acting in accordance with dictates in Judaism, shot and killed 
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. That numerous groups of religious 
Jews after the assassination supported this murder in the name of 
the "true" Jewish religion aroused interest in Israel in past killings 
by Jews of other Jews who were alleged to be heretics or sinners. 
In our book we cite present and past investigations by Israeli 
scholars documenting that for centuries prior to the rise of the 
modern nation state, Jews, believing they were acting in accordance 
with God's word and thus preparing themselves for eternal paradise, 
punished or killed heretics and/or religious sinners. Contemporary 
Jewish fundamentalism is an attempt to revive a situation that 
often existed in Jewish communities before the influence of 
modernity. The basic principles of Jewish fundamentalism are the 
same as those found in other religions: restoration and survival of 
the "pure" and pious religious community that presumably existed 
in the past. 

In our book we describe in some detail the origins, ideologies, 
practices and overall impact upon society of fundamentalism. We 
emphasize mostly the messianic tendency, because we believe it to 
be the most influential and dangerous. Jewish fundamentalists 
generally oppose extensions of human freedoms, especially the 
freedom of expression, in Israel. In regard to foreign policy, the 
National Religious Party, ruled by supporters of the messianic 
tendency of Jewish fundamentalism, has continuously opposed 
any and all withdrawals from territories conquered and occupied 
by Israel since 1967. These fundamentalists opposed Israeli 
withdrawal from the Sinai in 1978, just as twenty years later they 
continued to oppose any withdrawal from the West Bank. These 
same Jews printed and distributed atlases allegedly showing that 
the land of Israel, belonging only to the Jews and requiring liberation, 
included the Sinai, Jordan, Lebanon, most of Syria and Kuwait. 
Jewish fundamentalists have advocated the most discriminative 
proposals against Palestinians. Not surprisingly, Baruch Goldstein 
and Yigal Amir, the most sensational Jewish assassins of the 1990s, 
and most of their admirers have been Jewish fundamentalists of the 
messianic tendency. 



viii JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

In the 1990s, Israeli sociologists and scholars in other academic 
fields have focused more attention than ever before upon the social 
effects in Israeli society of Jewish fundamentalists. The 
overwhelming opinion of these scholars is that the adherents of 
Jewish fundamentalism in Israel are hostile to democracy. The fun- 
damentalists oppose equality for all citizens, especially non-Jews 
and Jewish "deviants" such as homosexuals. The great majority of 
religious Jews in Israel, influenced by fundamentalists, share these 
views to some extent. In a book review published on October 14, 
1998, Baruch Kimmerling, a distinguished Israeli sociologist, citing 
evidence from a study conducted by other scholars, commented: 

The values of the [Jewish] religion, at least in its Orthodox and 
nationalistic form that prevails in Israel, cannot be squared with 
democratic values. No other variable - neither nationality, nor 
attitudes about security, nor social or economic values, nor 
ethnic descent and education - so influences the attitudes of 
[Israeli] Jews against democratic values as does religiosity. 

Citing additional evidence, Kimmerling commented further that 
secular, Israeli Jews who had acquired college or university education 
had the greatest attachment to democratic values and that religious 
Jews who studied in yeshivot (religious schools) most opposed 
democracy. It is clear that fundamentalist antagonism to democratic 
values, as well as to most aspects of secular culture and life style, 
is deeply instilled in Israel's religious schools. 

The documentation of fundamentalist antagonism to the secular 
life style of a majority of Israeli Jews is clear. The September 20, 
1998, edition of Yediot Ahronot, the largest circulation, Hebrew- 
language, daily Israeli newspaper, for example, contained a "cultural 
profile" survey of Israeli Jewish society. The survey revealed that 
the major Israeli consumers of culture, who visit museums and 
attend concerts and the theater, had finished high school and 
defined themselves as either secular or not Orthodox (religious). 
The Israeli religious press and pronouncements by Israeli rabbis, 
condemning cultural activity, have confirmed the survey's findings. 

Jewish fundamentalists have displayed severe enmity against 
Jews who adopt a different sexual life style. Many Israeli rabbis and 
the Israeli religious political parties in the 1990s reacted sharply 
against the increased visibility and power of the homosexual and 
lesbian communities in Israel. According to the Halacha (Jewish 
religious law), homosexuality is punishable by death by stoning, 
and, although the punishment is not clear, lesbian relations are 
forbidden. The Israeli secular press emphasized in the 1990s some 
of the more outrageous rabbinical proposals for dealing with 
homosexuals; these included a "compulsory healing treatment" 



PREFACE ix 

and/or a period of "education in a closed institution." Many rabbis, 
when interviewed, indicated that they favored imposition of the 
death penalty for Jewish homosexual men. (The rabbis tended to 
leave lesbians alone.) In their televised election advertisements, 
Israeli religious political parties usually have emphasized that 
homosexual Jews constitute one of the greatest dangers facing 
Israel. The religious parties have been successful in their attempts 
to eliminate in public school courses any mention of Hebrew 
homosexual love poems, some of which contain beautiful Hebrew 
lyrics. This censorship is evidence of fundamentalist influence. 

Conflicts in Israeli society between adherents and opponents of 
Jewish fundamentalism rank among the most important issues in 
Israeli politics. In this book we do not attempt to discuss all of these 
problems and/or issues. Rather, we focus upon what we consider 
to be the most vital problems and issues of Jewish fundamentalism. 

Defenders of the "Jewish interest" often attack persons who 
write critically about Jews and/or Judaism for not emphasizing in 
the same text positive features that may have nothing or little to 
do with the substance under focus. Some of these defenders, for 
example, attacked Seffi Rachlevsky after the publication of his 
best-selling book, Messiahs' Donkeys. In his book, Rachlevsky 
correctly claimed that Rabbi Kook, the Elder, the revered father 
of the messianic tendency of Jewish fundamentalism (who is 
featured in our book), said "The diffeicnce between a Jewish soul 
and souls of non-Jews - all of them in all different levels - is greater 
and deeper than the difference between a human soul and the souls 
of cattle." The Rachlevsky detractors did not attempt to refute sub- 
stantively the relevance of the Kook quotation. Rather, they argued 
that Rabbi Kook said other things and that Rachlevsky, by neglecting 
to mention them, had distorted the teachings of Rabbi Kook. 
Rachlevsky pointed out that Rabbi Kook's entire teaching was 
based upon the Lurianic Cabbala, the school of Jewish mysticism 
that dominated Judaism from the late sixteenth to the early 
nineteenth century. One of the basic tenants of the Lurianic 
Cabbala is the absolute superiority of the Jewish soul and body over 
the non-Jewish soul and body. According to the Lurianic Cabbala, 
the world was created solely for the sake of Jews; the existence of 
non-Jews was subsidiary. If an influential Christian bishop or 
Islamic scholar argued that the difference between the superior souls 
of non-Jews and the inferior souls of Jews was greater than the 
difference between the human soul and the souls of cattle, he 
would incur the wrath of and be viewed as an anti-Semite by most 
Jewish scholars regardless of whatever less meaningful, positive 
statements he included. From this perspective the detractors of 
Rachlevsky are hypocrites. That Rabbi Kook was a vegetarian and 
even respected the rights of plants to the extent that he did not allow 



X JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

flowers or grass to be cut for his own pleasure neither distracted 
from nor added anything to his position regarding the comparison 
of the souls of Jews and non-Jews. That Kook deprecated 
unnecessary Jewish brutality against non-Jews should not minimize 
criticism of his expressed delight in the belief that the death of 
millions of soldiers during World War One constituted a sign of 
the approaching salvation of Jews and the coming of the Messiah. 

The detractors of Rachlevsky and those who may level similar 
criticisms against our book and us are not the only hypocrites in 
this area. Shelves of bookshops in English-speaking and other 
countries groan under the weight of books on Jewish mysticism in 
general and on Hassidism and the Lurianic Cabbala more 
specifically. Many of the authors of these books are widely regarded 
as famous scholars because of the minutiae of their scholarship. 
The people who read only these books on these subjects, however, 
cannot suspect that Jewish mysticism, the Lurianic Cabbala, 
Hassidism and the teachings of Rabbi Kook contain basic ideas 
about Jewish superiority comparable to the worst forms of anti- 
Semitism. The scholarly authors of these books, for example 
Gershon Scholem, have willfully omitted reference to such ideas. 
These authors are supreme hypocrites. They are analogous to 
many authors of books on Stalin and Stalinism. Until recently, 
people who read only the books written by Stalinists could not know 
about Stalin's crimes and would have false notions of the Stalinists' 
regimes and their real ideologies. 

The fact is that certain Jews, some of whom wield political 
influence, consider Jews to be superior to non-Jews and view the 
world as having been created only or primarily for Jews. This belief 
in Jewish superiority is most dangerous when held by Jews who love 
their children, are honest in their relations with other Jews and 
perform, as do fundamentalists in all religions, various acts of 
piety. This belief is less dangerous when held by Jews who are not 
overwhelmingly concerned about religion and/or corruption. A 
parallel worth citing here is that in a secular, totalitarian system, a 
dedicated party worker or a convinced nationalist is usually more 
dangerous and harmful than a corrupt member of the same 
ideological system. 

Our final point in this preface is both personal and universal. As 
Jews, we understand that our own grandparents or great- 
grandparents probably believed in at least some of the views 
described in our book. This same statement may apply to other 
contemporary Jews. In the past many non-Jews, as individuals and 
as members of groups, held anti-Semitic views, which, especially 
when the circumstances were propitious, influenced the behavior 
of others towards Jews. Similarly, in the past, slavery was universally 
practiced and justified, the inferior status of women was a global 



PREFACE xi 

phenomenon and the belief that a country belonged to an individual 
or family and was heritable was common. Jewish fundamentalists 
still believe, as they have in the past, in a golden age when everything 
was, or was going to be, perfect. This golden age is so much of a 
reality for them that, when faced with issues of pernicious beliefs 
and practices, they take refuge by invoking God's word, by falsely 
describing the past and by condemning non-Jews for harboring 
feelings of superiority and having contempt for Jews. The funda- 
mentalists also justify their own belief in Jewish superiority and their 
feeling of contempt for non-Jews; they seek to reproduce the 
mythical golden age in which their views would dominate. We have 
written this book in order to reveal the essential character of Jewish 
fundamentalism and its adherents. This character threatens 
democratic features of Israeli society. We believe that awareness 
is the necessary first step in opposition. We realize that by criticizing 
Jewish fundamentalism we are criticizing a part of the past that we 
love. We wish that members of every human grouping would 
criticize their own past, even before criticizing others. This, we 
further believe, would lead to a better understanding between 
human groups and would be followed, perhaps slowly and 
hesitantly, by better treatment of minorities. Most of our book is 
concerned with basic beliefs and resultant policies in Israeli Jewish 
society. We believe that a critique of Jewish fundamentalism, which 
entails a critique of the Jewish past, can help Jews acquire more 
understanding and improve their behavior towards Palestinians, 
especially in the territories conquered in and occupied since 1967. 
We hope that our critique will also motivate other people in the 
Middle East to engage in criticism of their entire past in order to 
increase their knowledge of themselves and improve their behavior 
towards others in the present. All of this could constitute a major 
factor in bringing peace to the Middle East. 



Glossary 



Agudat Israel ("Association of Jews" in Hebrew): A former name of 

the Askenazi Haredi party now called Yahadut Ha'Torah. 

Aron Ha'kodesh ("Cupboard of the Holiness" in Hebrew): Place in 

synagogue where the Scrolls of Law are stored, to be taken out only 

on specific occasions. Regarded as the holiest place in the synagogue. 

Ashkenazi ("German" in pre-modern Hebrew): A common name for 

Jews whose ancestors lived in northern France, England, Germany, 

Poland, Russia and other countries of central and eastern Europe. 

Bar Mitzva ("capable of [fulfilling] commandments" in Hebrew): A 

ceremony usually accompanied by a feast, to celebrate the occasion 

when a Jewish boy reaches the age of thirteen, is then obliged to fulfill 

all religious commandments and becomes capable of sinning. According 

to traditional Judaism the father is responsible for all sins committed 

by sons below the age of thirteen. 

Black Panthers: In the context of this book this term refers to a small 

and ephemeral, but highly publicized, organization of Oriental Jews 

in Israel during the 1970s, which protested discrimination of Oriental 

Jews. 

Bnei Brak: Israeli town near Tel Aviv, inhabited almost only by 

Haredim, mainly Ashkenazi. 

Border guards: A paramilitary unit of the Israeli police. 

Cabbala ("The received [thing]" in Hebrew): The usual name for 

Jewish mysticism; used especially for the Jewish mystical groups that 

have developed since the eleventh century. 

Davar ("Matter," in Hebrew): A Hebrew newspaper that ceased to 

appear in the mid-1990s. 

Degel Ha'Torah ("Flag of the Torah" in Hebrew): A faction of 

Mitnagdim within the party, Yahadut Ha'Torah. 

Der'i, Aryeh: Chief politician of the Shas party, born in 1959. In April, 

1 999, he was convicted for taking bribes and sentenced to four years 

of imprisonment. The punishment was suspended pending his appeal. 

Ga'on ("genius" in Hebrew): Title of the two chief rabbis in Iraq from 

about 650 to 1050, each of whom was acknowledged by all Jews as 

the supreme religious authority. In the last two hundred years also used 

in a vague manner to designate (or to flatter) any important rabbi. 

Ge'onim: Plural of Ga'on. 

Goren, Rabbi Shlomo: An important Israeli rabbi. Appointed by 

Prime Minister David Ben Gurion as the first Chief Rabbi of the 



GLOSSARY xiii 

Israeli army. Subsequently a Chief Rabbi of Israel in the 1960s and 

1970s. 

Gush Emunim ("Block of Faithful" in Hebrew): The ideological and 

settling messianic movement (see chapters four and five). Founded 

in early 1974. 

Ha'ain Hashvi'it ("the seventh eye" in Hebrew): Bimonthly issued 

by the Israeli Institute for Democracy and devoted to media criticism. 

Haaretz ("The land" in Hebrew): The most prestigious Hebrew 

newspaper, read mainly by the elite. 

Hadashot ("News" in Hebrew): A radical Hebrew newspaper of the 

1980s and early 1990s. 

HaHr ("The town" in Hebrew): A Friday, widely read, Hebrew 

newspaper of Tel Aviv and neighboring towns with radical tendencies. 

Halacha ("Accepted" in Hebrew): The term as two meanings in 

Hebrew. 1. The entire body of the Jewish religious law. 2. A single 

regulation of that law. To avoid confusion in this book we used the 

term only in its first meaning. Where it occurred in our Hebrew 

sources in the second meaning (for example, in references in quotations 

to books codifying Jewish religious law), it was translated as "rule." 

Haredim ("Fearful" in the meaning "God-fearing" in Hebrew): 

Name of those Jewish fundamentalists who refuse modern innovations. 

Haredi is the singular form and is also an adverb. 

Ha'Shavua ("The week" in Hebrew): An extreme Haredi weekly. 

Heder ("Room" in Hebrew) : Name for the pre-modern Jewish school 

system. 

Hesder ("Arrangement" in Hebrew): Name for religious units in 

Israeli army that serve by a special arrangement. 

Israel A and Israel B: Popular Israeli terms designating the two parts 

of Israeli Jewish society that often oppose each other: the former 

leaning to the right and the second leaning to the left and less influenced 

by religion. 

Karo, Rabbi Yoseph: 1488-1575, the author of Shulhan Aruch, 

commentaries on Maimonides and other religious works. Regarded 

as the most important rabbinic authority of the sixteenth and 

seventeenth centuries. 

Kashrut ("proper manner" in Hebrew): A set of rules governing the 

types of food that religious Jews can eat according to the Halacha and 

the proper manner of their preparation. 

Kitzur Shulhan Aruch ("abridgment of Shulhan Aruch" in Hebrew): 

A popular book containing the most necessary rules of Halacha, used 

in the education of Haredi children and by the uneducated Haredim. 

Written by rabbi Shlomo Gantzfried in early nineteenth century. 

Kollel ("entire" or "inclusive" in Hebrew): An institution for the 

studying of Talmud by adults who have finished their Yeshiva studies. 

Kook, Rabbi Avracham Yitzhak Hacohen: 1865-1935, also called 

and referred to in this book as "Rabbi Kook the elder." After filling 

various rabbinic posts he was the Chief Rabbi of Palestine 1920-35. 

A prolific author, many of whose works were posthumously edited from 



xiv JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

his notes. The founder of the messianic ideology (chapters four and 

five). Held in great regard by Gush Emunim followers and to some 

extent by all Zionists. 

Kook, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Hacohen: 1890-1982, a son of Rabbi 

Avraham Yitzhak Kook. Called and referred to in this book as "Rabbi 

Kook the younger." Took over the leadership of the adherents of 

messianic ideology after the death of his father. All important Gush 

Emunim rabbis are his students. 

Kosher: Yiddish expression used in Hebrew with ironic undertones 

to refer to food, chosen and prepared according to rules of Kashrut. 

The proper Hebrew word "Kasher" is used mainly in polite discourse. 

Kuneh: A Yiddish word meaning a particular type of stocks used by 

Jews in Eastern Europe. Adopted in Hebrew historical and religious 

works. 

Labor: Proper name The Israeli Labor Party. The largest and also the 

oldest Israeli left party. 

Likud ("consolidation" in Hebrew): The largest Israeli right party. 

Lurianic Cabbala: The most important branch of Cabbala since the 

early seventeenth century. Founded by Rabbi Isaac Luria (1538-72) 

and his disciples, it has dominated all subsequent Jewish mysticism. 

Maariv ("eventide" in Hebrew): The Hebrew daily paper with the 

second largest circulation. 

Maimonides: Used in this book, following Hebrew usage, in two 

meanings: 1. Rabbi Moshe son of Maimon, called in European 

languages Maimonides, 1138-1204, author of many books of 

commentary on the Halacha. Also, the greatest philosopher of Judaism. 

2. The largest codex of Halacha composed by Maimonides; the proper 

name is "Mishneh Torah" ("second rank Torah"). It includes all 

commandments and beliefs of Jewish religious law. It is divided into 

books that are in turn divided into tractates, entitled according to the 

issues with which they deal; they tractates in turn are divided into 

chapters and individual rules. In our references following the Hebrew 

usage, only the tractate, chapter and the number of the rule are given. 

Maskilim ("the enlightened ones" in Hebrew): Name adopted by the 

Jews who introduced modern influences into Judaism in late eighteenth 

and nineteenth centuries. 

Mishnah ("repetition" in Hebrew): The basic and easier part of 

Talmud, often studied by itself and equipped with special 

commentaries. 

Mitnagdim ("opponents" in Hebrew): The most extreme right-wing 

party now represented in the knesset. 

National Religious Party: Often referred to by its acronym NRP. 

Represents the fundamentalist Jews in Israel who are not Haredim. 

Oriental Jews ("mizrahim" in Hebrew): Collective name used at 

present for Israeli Jews who are not Ashkenazi. 

Orthodox: In Israel and elsewhere, a common name for Jews who keep 

the rules of Halacha, or at least most of them. Orthodoxy refers to the 

behavior and practices of Orthodox Jews. (Contrary to Christianity, 



GLOSSARY xv 

Orthodox and orthodoxy in Judaism refer mostly to practices and not 
to beliefs.) 

Palestinian Talmud (called incorrectly in Hebrew "Jerusalem 
Talmud"): The less authoritative and extensive of the two Talmuds. 
Pentateuch: The first five books of the Bible, believed to have been 
written by Moses and regarded as more sacred than the rest of the Bible. 
Purim: A lesser Jewish holiday that occurs about one month before 
Passover. It has many features of the carnival but is also characterized 
by increased hostility to non-Jews. 

Rabenu ("our rabbi" in Hebrew): An unofficial title given to specially 
important rabbis. 

Rebbe ("rabbi" in Yiddish): Kept to this day by the holy men of 
Hassidic sects as one of their titles. Used in Hebrew in this connotation. 
Sages: The customary English translation of the Hebrew term "our 
wise men of blessed memory." Used primarily to designate all rabbis 
mentioned in the Talmud, but also to refer more vaguely to all past 
Orthodox rabbis. 

Sephardi ("Spanish" in Hebrew): Until the late 1970s used in Israel 
instead of the term, Oriental Jews. 

Sha'atnez: A Hebrew word denoting the forbidden mixture of wool 
and flax in a textile. 

Shach, Rabbi Eliezer: 1898-, the spiritual leader of the Degel 
Ha'Torah faction and one of the most influential rabbis in Israel. 
Shas: The party of Oriental Jewish Haredim. 

Shishi ("Sixth" or "Friday" in Hebrew): Name of a defunct Hebrew 
weekly. 

Shofar: Ram's horn used for sacred blowing during some synagogue 
services and especially on the New Year. 

Sholem, Professor Gershon: 1897-1982, founder of the modern 
study of Cabbala; wrote many authoritative books on Jewish mysticism. 
Shulhan Aruch ("prepared table" in Hebrew): A summary of a 
longer work, Bet Yoseph, by Rabbi Yoseph Karo but shorter than the 
Maimonides version, because it omits many less important subjects. 
It is regarded as authoritative by most Orthodox Jews. Usually the 
differences between the Shulhan Aruch and the Maimonides version 
are minor. 

Tal, Professor Uriel: Died in 1985. Professor of German history at 
Tel Aviv University. 

Talmud ("study" in Hebrew): Although there are two Talmuds, 
Palestinian and Babylonian, the term "Talmud" without qualification 
always refers to the Babylonian Talmud, regarded as the most author- 
itative text by Orthodox Jews. The Palestinian Talmud (much shorter 
and inferior in its arrangement) enjoys only a supplementary authority. 
The basic part of both Talmuds is the Mishnah, a collection of terse 
laws written in Hebrew. The other part, called "Gemarah" consists 
of a discussion of those laws mixed with many legends. The Gemarah 
is much longer than the Mishnah and is written in both Aramaic and 
Hebrew. Both Talmuds are divided into sixty tractates. The Babylonian 



xvi JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

Talmud is always printed in standard editions with the same division 

of pages so that all references are to the names of tractate and page 

numbers. 

Torah Sheba'al Peh ("oral Torah" in Hebrew): Term used, especially 

by Orthodox Jews, to refer to the sacred Jewish literature other than 

the Bible. 

Tractate: A major division of the Talmud. Each tractate has a name, 

usually roughly describing its main contents. 

Tsomet ("junction" in Hebrew): Secular right-wing party headed by 

Reserve General Raphael Eitan and allied with Likud. Tsomet has been 

politically powerful in the early 1990s. 

Yahadut Ha'Torah ("Judaism of the Torah" in Hebrew): Party of 

Ashkenazi Haredim, comprised of two almost independent factions: 

one Degel Ha'Torah and the other a coalition of Hassidic sects. 

Yated Ne'etnan ("faithful tent peg" in Hebrew): Weekly of Degel 

Ha'Torah. 

Yediot Ahronot ("last news" in Hebrew): The Hebrew newspaper 

with by far the largest circulation. 

Yerushalaitn ("Jerusalem" in Hebrew): A Hebrew Friday paper 

published in Jerusalem. Belongs to Yediot Ahronot. 

Yeshiva ("sitting" or "meeting" in Hebrew): Institution for higher 

Talmudic studies. The plural is Yeshivot. 

Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement in English): The most sacred day 

of the Jewish religious calendar. 

Yoseph, Rabbi Ovadia: The spiritual leader of the Shas party. 



Introduction 



This is a political book about Jewish fundamentalism in Israel. It 
includes some original scholarly research but is based to a great 
extent upon the scholarly research of others. Hopefully, this book 
is analytical. 

We have inserted in the text many and copious quotations from 
serious articles that have appeared in the Israeli Hebrew press. The 
majority of articulate Israeli Jews have learned about Jewish fun- 
damentalism and some of the reactions thereto during the past ten 
to fifteen years from these articles. Some of these articles provided 
summaries of and analyses by leading scholars who have researched 
in-depth aspects of Jewish fundamentalism. 

We have quoted and have usually explained texts from talmudic 
literature. Such texts have been and still are often used in Israeli 
politics and often quoted in the Israeli Hebrew press. We have 
concluded that in the usual English translations of talmudic 
literature some of the most sensitive passages are usually toned down 
or falsified - as a result, we have ourselves translated all of the texts 
from talmudic literature that we have quoted in the book. The 
quotations from the Bible, however, follow the standard translations, 
sometimes in more modern English, except when specifically noted 
otherwise. 

We realize that we have presented a number of lengthy quotations. 
We determined that this was necessary in order to explain our points 
adequately. We believe the quotations deserve to be and should 
be read in full. Instead of footnoting each quotation separately in 
the traditional scholarly manner, we decided to mention in the text 
from where each quotation was taken. Although this may at times 
appear to be a bit redundant, it makes the flow of understanding 
easier. 

Although our book deals primarily with recent developments in 
Jewish fundamentalism, it is rooted in Jewish history. A brief 
overview of Jewish history, especially for readers who may lack 
adequate knowledge thereof, is necessary in order to provide the 
contextual framework for the subject matter. Fundamentalists of 
all religions wish to restore society to the "good old times" when 
the faith was allegedly pure and was practiced by everyone. 
Fundamentalists believe that in the "good old times" all the evils 



2 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

associated with modernity were absent. To gain an understanding 
of Jewish fundamentalism, it is imperative to identify the historical 
period that fundamentalists believe should be re-established. In 
order to do this, we must specify the various periods of Jewish 
history. 

Jewish history is usually divided into four major periods. The first 
is the biblical period during which most of the Jewish Bible (Old 
Testament in the Christian tradition) was written. Although its 
beginning time is uncertain, this period lasted until about the fifth 
century bc. Judaism, at least in its major characteristics, did not 
exist in this time period. The Hebrew word "yehudim" ("Jews" in 
post-biblical Hebrew) and its cognates in the Jewish Bible only 
denotes the inhabitants of the small kingdom of Judea and is used 
to distinguish these inhabitants from all the other people, called 
Israelites or "sons of Israel" or, rarely, "Hebrews." The Bible 
anyway is not the book that primarily determines the practices and 
doctrines of Orthodox Jews. 1 The most fundamentalist Orthodox 
Jews are largely ignorant of major parts of the Bible and know some 
parts only through commentaries that distort meaning. 
Controversies, moreover, consumed the biblical period. The 
majority of Israelites, including inhabitants of Judea, practiced 
idolatry throughout much of this period. Only a minority of Israelites 
followed those tendencies from which Judaism subsequently arose. 
In short, Judaism, as it came to be known, did not exist during the 
biblical period. 

The second period of Jewish history, usually called the Second 
Temple period, began in the fifth century bc and lasted until the 
destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in ad 70. This 
was the formative period of Judaism with its subsequent charac- 
teristics. The term "Jews," which denotes those people who followed 
the distinctive religion of Judaism and the name Judea, which 
denotes the land wherein Jews lived, appeared in this period. Near 
the end of this period, after Jews had conquered most of Palestine, 
the Romans adopted the term "Judea" in describing Palestine. 2 The 
two most important new Jewish characteristics that developed in 
this period were Jewish exclusiveness and the resultant separation 
of Jews from all other nations. For the first time the persons of other 
nations were referred to by the collective name of gentiles. 3 The 
second new characteristic was based upon the assumption that the 
Jews must follow biblical law, that is, the true interpretation of the 
law. During most of this period, however, disputes centering upon 
differing and rival interpretations of the law occurred. At times, these 
disputes erupted into civil wars. The long-lasting quarrel between 
the Pharisees and Saducees was but one example of such disputes. 
Shortly after the beginning of this period, Alexander the Great 
conquered Palestine. States influenced by Hellenism ruled Palestine 



INTRODUCTION 3 

for almost a thousand years thereafter; even the short-lived 
independent Jewish state of the Hasmonean dynasty was in most 
essentials a type of Hellenistic state. Consequentially, Jewish society 
and the Hebrew language, even though keeping their Jewish char- 
acteristics were transformed by the influences of Hellenism, 
Hellenism influenced even more deeply the Jewish diaspora in 
Mediterranean countries. Jews in those countries often spoke and 
prayed in Greek. Unfortunately most of the Jewish literature in 
Greek, which was produced in this period, was subsequently lost 
by the Jews; only that part preserved by various Christian churches 
has remained. 

Most historians date the beginning of the third period in ad 70 
with the destruction of the Second Temple. Other historians prefer 
to date the beginning of the third period in ad 135, when the last 
major Jewish rebellion against the Roman Empire ended. This 
period ended at different times in different countries with the onset 
of modernity and the rise of modern nation states. Modernity 
began when Jews were granted rights as citizens equal to those 
granted to non-Jews and consequently when their autonomy, which 
entailed subjection to the rabbis, ended. This occurred in the 
United States and France, for example, by the end of the eighteenth 
century; this did not occur in Russia until 1917 or in Yemen until 
the 1950s. The Jewish rebellions against the Romans resulted in 
a permanent loss of Jewish population in Palestine; the importance 
of the Jewish diaspora thus increased. This change became fully 
operative in the fifth century ad. Additionally, the failure of 
rebellions caused the Jews to lose hope that the Temple would be 
rebuilt and that the animal sacrifices performed in the Temple, 
previously the heart-center of the Jewish religion, would be restored 
before the coming of the Messiah. The repeated defeats caused most 
Jews to accommodate themselves to the ruling authority of Rome 
and of other states in return for the limited autonomy directed by 
the rabbis. Thus, in the Roman empire of the fourth century ad, 
in a system created much earlier, all the Jews were in religious 
matters subject to the Patriarch who had the power to punish 
them by flogging, by levying fines for religious offenses and by 
imposing taxes. The dignitary called Patriarch in Roman sources 
was called President ("Nassi" in Hebrew) in Jewish sources. He 
presided over the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish court, and in 
Palestine appointed court members and other religious func- 
tionaries. The Patriarch, whose post was hereditary, held a high 
official rank in the hierarchy of Roman state officials. A similar 
arrangement simultaneously existed in Iraq where the top official 
was called the head of the diaspora. Both the patriarch and the head 
of the diaspora claimed to have been descended from the family 
of King David. The office of the patriarch lapsed shortly after 



4 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

ad 429; the office of the head of the diaspora lasted until about 
ad 1 100. Both offices provided the framework for models of Jewish 
autonomy. This autonomy, which persisted until the modern era, 
and later repercussions thereof, contributed to the rise of Jewish 
fundamentalism. The great abundance of literature produced in 
the third period, the longest in the entire course of Jewish history, 
was written mostly in Hebrew but also in Aramaic, Greek, Arabic, 
Yiddish and other languages. The major theme was religion; the 
minutiae of religious observances were mainly emphasized. Poetry, 
philosophy and science, predominantly of the Aristotelian variety, 
appeared at some times in some places but were neither universal 
nor continuous. In many diaspora areas, particularly in central 
Europe, the only literature produced until 1750 was religious. 
From the perspective of Jewish fundamentalism the most important 
occurrence in the third period was the growth of Jewish mysticism, 
usually referred to by the name of Cabbala. Jewish mysticism 
transformed Jewish beliefs without changing, except for a few 
details, Jewish observance. Between 1550 and 1750, the great 
majority of Jews in western Europe accepted the Cabbala and its 
set of beliefs. This was the end of the third period of Jewish history, 
which immediately preceded the rise of modern nation states and 
the beginning of modern influences. Mysticism is still accepted by 
and constitutes a vital part of Jewish fundamentalism, being 
especially important in the messianic variety. As shown in our 
book, the ideology of the messianic variety of Jewish fundamen- 
talism is based upon the Cabbala. In spite of making occasional 
references to the Bible, Jewish fundamentalists generally have 
consistently pinpointed and described the last part of this third 
period as the golden age that they wish to restore. It is important 
to note that, beyond the spawning of Jewish fundamentalism, the 
wide circulation of religious literature in this third period created 
a strong sense of Jewish unity, based upon a common religion and 
the Hebrew language. (Almost all educated Jews, regardless of what 
language they spoke, understood and employed Hebrew as a 
written language for their religion.) 

The fourth and modern period of Jewish history is the one in 
which we live. It began at different times in different countries; many 
Israeli Jews passed directly from pre-modern to modern times. As 
discussed in Chapter 3 of our book, this phenomenon has been 
especially important for Oriental Jews. Our book emphasizes that 
Jewish fundamentalism arose as a reaction against the effects of 
modernity upon Jews. The influence of Jewish fundamentalism upon 
the Israeli Jewish community can only be understood adequately 
within the context of the entire course of Jewish history. 



Jewish Fundamentalism Within Jewish 
Society 



Almost every moderately sophisticated Israeli Jew knows the facts 
about Israeli Jewish society that are described in this book. These 
facts, however, are unknown to most interested Jews and non-Jews 
outside Israel who do not know Hebrew and thus cannot read most 
of what Israeli Jews write about themselves in Hebrew. These facts 
are rarely mentioned or are described inaccurately in the enormous 
media coverage of Israel in the United States and elsewhere. The 
major purpose of this book is to provide those persons who do not 
read Hebrew with more understanding of one important aspect of 
Israeli Jewish society. 

This book pinpoints the political importance of Jewish funda- 
mentalism in Israel, a powerful state in and beyond the Middle East 
that wields great influence in the United States. Jewish funda- 
mentalism is here briefly defined as the belief that Jewish Orthodoxy, 
which is based upon the Babylonian Talmud, the rest of talmudic 
literature and halachic literature, is still valid and will eternally 
remain valid. Jewish fundamentalists believe that the Bible itself is 
not authoritative unless interpreted correctly by talmudic literature. 
Jewish fundamentalism exists not only in Israel but in every country 
that has a sizeable Jewish community. In countries other than 
Israel, wherein Jews constitute a small minority of the total 
population, the general importance of Jewish fundamentalism is 
limited mainly to acquiring funding and garnering political support 
for fundamentalist adherents in Israel. Its importance in Israel is 
far greater, because its adherents can and do influence the state in 
various ways. The variety of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel is 
striking. Many fundamentalists, for instance, want the temple 
rebuilt on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem or at least want to keep 
the site, which is now a holy Muslim praying place, empty of 
visitors. In the United States most Christians would not identify 
with such a purpose, but in Israel a significant number of Israeli 
Jews who are not fundamentalists identify with and support this 
and similar demands. Some varieties of Jewish fundamentalism are 
clearly more dangerous than others. Jewish fundamentalism is not 
only capable of influencing conventional Israeli policies but could 



6 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

also substantially affect Israeli nuclear policies. The same possible 
consequences of fundamentalism feared by many persons for other 
countries could occur in Israel. 

The significance of fundamentalism in Israel can only be 
understood within the context of Israeli Jewish society and as part 
of the contribution of the Jewish religion to societal internal 
divisions. Our consideration of this broad topic begins by focusing 
upon the ways sophisticated observers divide Israeli Jewish society 
politically and religiously. We then proceed to the explanation of 
why Jewish fundamentalism influences in varying degrees other 
Israeli Jews, thereby allowing fundamentalist Jews to wield much 
greater political power in Israel than their percentage of the 
population might appear to warrant. 

The customary two-way division of Israeli Jewish society rests 
upon the cornerstone recognition that as a group Israeli Jews are 
highly ideological. This is best evidenced by their high percentage 
of voting, which usually exceeds 80 per cent. In the May 1996 
elections, over 95 per cent of the better educated, richer, secular 
Jews and the religious Jews in all categories of education and 
income voted. After discounting the large number of Israeli Jews 
who live outside Israel (over 400,000), most of whom did not 
vote, it can be safely assumed that almost every eligible voter in 
these two crucial segments of the population voted. Most Israeli 
political observers by now assume that Israeli Jews are divided into 
two categories: Israel A and Israel B. Israel A, often referred to as 
the "left," is politically represented by the Labor and Meretz 
Parties; Israel B, referred to as the "right" or the "right and religious 
parties," is comprised of all the other Jewish parties. Almost all of 
Israel A and a great majority of Israel B (the exception being some 
of the fundamentalist Jews) strongly adhere to Zionist ideology, 
which in brief, holds that all or at least the majority of Jews should 
emigrate to Palestine, which as the Land of Israel, belongs to all 
Jews and should be a Jewish state. A strong and increasing enmity 
between these two segments of Israeli society nevertheless exists. 
There are many reasons for this enmity. The reason relevant to this 
study is that Israel B, including its secular members, is sympathetic 
to Jewish fundamentalism while Israel A is not. It is apparent from 
studies of election results over a long period of time that Israel B 
has consistently obtained a numerical edge over Israel A. This is 
an indication that the number of Jews influenced by Jewish fun- 
damentalism is consistently increasing. 

In his article "Religion, Nationalism and Democracy in Israel," 
published in the Autumn 1994 issue of the periodical, Z' Manim 
(no. 50-51), Professor Baruch Kimmerling, a faculty member of 
Hebrew University's sociology department, presented data 
pertaining to the religious division of Israeli Jewish society. Citing 



JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM WITHIN JEWISH SOCIETY 7 

numerous research studies, Kimmerling showed conclusively that 
Israeli Jewish society is far more divided on religious issues than is 
generally assumed outside of Israel, where belief in generaliza- 
tions, such as "common to all Jews," is challenged less than in Israel. 
Quoting the data of a survey taken by the prestigious Gutman 
Institute of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Kimmerling 
pointed out that whereas 19 per cent of Israeli Jews said they 
prayed daily, another 19 per cent declared that they would not enter 
a synagogue under any circumstances. l Influenced by the Gutman 
Institute analysis and similar studies, Kimmerling and other scholars 
have concluded that Israel A and Israel B contain hard-core believers 
who hold diametrically opposed views of the Jewish religion. This 
conclusion is almost certainly correct. 

More generally, the attitude towards religion in Israeli Jewish 
society can be divided into three parts. The religious Jews observe 
the commandments of the Jewish religion, as defined by Orthodox 
rabbis, many of whom emphasize observance more than belief. (The 
number of Reform and/or Conservative Jewish in Israel is small.) 
The traditional Jews keep some of the more important 
commandments while violating the more inconvenient ones; they 
do honor the rabbis and the religion. The secularists may 
occasionally enter a synagogue but respect neither the rabbis nor 
the religious institutions. The line between traditional and secular 
Jews is often vague, but the available studies indicate that 25 to 30 
per cent of Israeli Jews are secular, 50 to 55 per cent are traditional 
and about 20 per cent are religious. Traditional Jews obviously 
belong to both the Israel A and Israel B categories. 

Israeli religious Jews are divided into two distinctly different 
groups. The members of the religiously more extreme group are 
called Haredim. (The singular word is Haredi or Hared.) The 
members of the religiously more moderate group are called religious- 
national Jews. The religious-national Jews are sometimes called 
"knitted skullcaps" because of their head covering. Haredim usually 
wear black skullcaps that are never knitted, or hats. The religious- 
national Jews otherwise usually dress in the more usual Israeli 
fashion, while the Haredim almost always wear black clothes. 

The Haredim are themselves divided into two parties. The first, 
Yahadut Ha'Torah (Judaism of the Law) is the party of the 
Ashkenazi Haredim who are of East European origin. Yahadut 
Ha'Torah itself is a coalition of two factions. The second is Shas, 
the party of the Oriental Haredim who are of Middle Eastern 
origin. (The differences between the two types of Haredim will be 
more specifically discussed in Chapter 3.) The religious-national 
Jews are organized in the National Religious Party (NRP). By 
analyzing the 1996 electoral vote and making some necessary 
adjustments, we can estimate the population percentages of these 



8 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

two groups of religious Jews. In the 1996 election the Haredi 
parties together won 14 of the 120 total Knesset seats. Shas won 
ten seats; Yahadut Ha' Torah won four. The NRP won nine seats. 
Some Israeli Jews admittedly voted for Shas because of talismans 
and amulets distributed by Shas that were supposedly valid only 
after a "correct" vote. Some NRP members and sympathizers, 
moreover, admittedly voted for secular right-wing parties. 
Everything considered, the Haredim probably constitute 1 1 per cent 
of the Israeli population and 13.4 per cent of the Israeli Jews; the 
NRP adherents probably constitute 9 per cent of the Israeli 
population and 1 1 per cent of the Israeli Jews. 

The basic tenets of the two groups of religious Jews need some 
introductory explanation. The word "hared" is a common Hebrew 
word meaning "fearful." During early Jewish history, it meant 
"God-fearing" or exceptionally devout. In the mid-nineteenth 
century it was adopted, first in Germany and Hungary and later 
in other parts of the diaspora, as the name of the party of religious 
Jews that opposed any modern innovation. The Ashkenazi Haredim 
emerged as a backlash group opposed to the Jewish enlightenment 
in general and especially to those Jews who refused to accept the 
total authority of the rabbis and who introduced innovations into 
the Jewish worship and life style. Seeing that almost all Jews 
accepted these innovations, the Haredim reacted even more 
extremely and banned every innovation. The Haredim to date 
have insisted upon the strictest observance of the Halacha. An 
illustrative example of opposition to innovation is the previously 
mentioned and still current black dress of the Haredim; this was 
the dress fashion of Jews in Eastern Europe when the Haredim 
formed themselves into a party. Before that time Jews dressed in 
many different styles and were often indistinguishable in dress 
from their neighbors. After a brief time, almost all Jews except for 
the Haredim again dressed differendy. The Halacha, moreover, does 
not enjoin Jews to dress in black and/or to wear thick black coats 
and heavy fur caps during the hot summer or at any other time. 
Yet, Haredim in Israel continue to do so in opposition to innovation; 
they insist that dress be kept as it was in Europe around 1850. All 
other considerations, including climatic ones, are overridden. 

In contrast to the Haredim, the religious-nationalist Jews of the 
NRP made their compromises with modernity at the beginning of 
the 1920s when the split between the two large groupings in 
religious Judaism first appeared in Palestine. This can be 
immediately observed in their dress, which, with the exception of 
a small skullcap, is conventional. Even more importantly, this is 
evident in their selective observance of the Halacha, for example, 
in their rejection of many commandments regarding women. NRP 
members do not hesitate to admit women to positions of authority 



JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM WITHIN JEWISH SOCIETY 9 

in many of their organizations and in the political party itself. 
Before both the 1992 and 1996 elections the NRP published and 
distributed an advertisement, containing photographs of various 
public figures including some women supporting the party, and 
boasted more broadly on television of female support. Haredim did 
not and would not do this. Even when Haredim, who ban television 
watching for themselves, decided to present some television election 
programs directed to other Jews, they insisted that all participants 
be male. During the 1992 campaign the editors of a Haredi weekly 
consulted the rabbinical censor about whether or not to publish 
the above-mentioned NRP advertisement. The rabbinical censor 
ordered the paper to publish the advertisement with all photographs 
of the NRP women blotted out. The editors did what the censor 
ordered. Outraged, the NRP sued the newspaper for libel and 
sought damages in Israeli secular courts, disregarding the rulings 
of Haredi rabbis prohibiting using secular courts to settle disputes 
among Jews. 

The religious-nationalist Jewish compromises with modernity 
regarding women are exceedingly complicated in many ways. The 
Halacha forbids Jewish males to listen to women singing whether 
in a choir or solo regardless of what is sung. This is stated directly 
in the halachic ruling that a voice of a woman is adultery. This is 
interpreted by later halachic rulings stipulating that the word 
"voice" here means a woman's singing not speaking. This rule, 
originating in the Talmud, occurs in all codes of law. A Jewish male 
who willingly listens to a woman's singing commits a sin equivalent 
either to adultery or fornication. The great majority of NRP faithful 
members, nevertheless, listen to women singing and thus commit 
"adultery" routinely. Some of the most strict NRP members, 
especially among the religious settlers in the West Bank, have not 
only puzzled over this problem but at times have tried to solve the 
problem of how to adjust by developing creative approaches. In 
the early 1990s some of the settlers founded a new radio station, 
Arutz, or Channel, 7. For their station to become successful and 
to appeal as broadly as possible to Israeli Jews, the settlers 
understood that the songs of the fashionable singers of the day, some 
of whom were women, would have to be broadcast. The rabbinical 
censor, however, has refused to allow a breach of the Halacha 
whereby male listeners would hear female singers and thus commit 
"adultery." After further consultation with the censor, the setders 
devised an acceptable solution that is still being employed. Men 
sing the songs, made popular by women; the male voices are then 
electronically changed to the female pitch and are broadcast 
accordingly over Arutz 7. A part of the traditional public is satisfied 
by this expedient, and the learned NRP rabbis insist that no 
adultery is committed when men listen to the songs being sung. 



10 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

The Haredim obviously have rejected and condemned this accom- 
modation and to date have refused to listen to Arutz 7. Even more 
importantly, the Haredim, after increasing somewhat their political 
power in the 1988 elections, were able to impose their position in 
this regard upon the whole state by forcing a change in the opening 
of the new Knesset session. The opening ceremony previously 
began with the singing of "Hatikva," the Israeli national anthem, 
by a mixed male-female choir. After the 1988 election, in deference 
to Haredi sensitivities, a male singer replaced the mixed choir. After 
the 1992 election, won by Labor, an all-male choir of the Military 
Rabbinate sang "Hatikva." 

How can the Haredim, who altogether constitute only a small 
percentage of Israel's Jewish population, at times, either alone or 
even with the help of the NRP, impose their will upon the rest of 
society? The facile explanation is that both the Labor and Likud 
parties kowtow to the Haredim for political support. This 
explanation is insufficient. The kowtowing continued between 
1984 and 1990 during the time that Labor and Likud had formed 
a coalition. Currying favor from the Haredim for alignment purposes 
was then politically unnecessary. The offered explanation, 
furthermore, does not adequately take into account the special 
affinity of all the religious parties, perceived since 1980 as funda- 
mentalist, to Likud and other secular right-wing parties. This 
affinity, especially between Likud and the Haredi religious parties, 
based upon a shared world outlook, is at the crux of Israeli politics. 
(This affinity is analogous to that existing between Christian and 
Muslim fundamentalists and their secular right parties.) The 
relatively simple case of the NRP illustrates this well. The NRP 
recognizes, although does not always follow, the same halachic 
authorities as do the Haredi parties. The NRP also adheres to the 
same ideals relating to the Jewish past and, more importantly, to 
the future when Israel's triumph over the non-Jews will allegedly 
be secure. The differences between the NRP and the Haredim stem 
from the NRP's belief that redemption has begun and will soon 
be completed by the imminent coming of the Messiah. The Haredim 
do not share this belief. The NRP believes that special circumstances 
at the beginning of redemption justify temporary departures from 
the ideal that could help advance the process of redemption. NRP 
support in some situations for military service for talmudic scholars 
is a relevant example here. These deviant NRP ideas have been 
undermined since the 1970s by the expanding Haredi influence 
upon increasing numbers of NRP followers who have resisted 
departures from strict talmudic norms and have favored Haredi 
positions. This process has been counter-balanced to some extent 
by the growth in prestige of the NRP settlers who are esteemed as 
pioneers of messianism even though the assassination of Prime 



JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM WITHIN JEWISH SOCIETY 1 1 

Minister Rabin by a messianist may have momentarily increased 
Haredi prestige. 

The religious influence upon the Israeli right-wing of Israel B is 
attributable both to its militaristic character and its widely shared 
world outlook. Secular and militaristic right-wing, Israeli Jews 
hold political views and engage in rhetoric similar to that of religious 
Jews. For most Likud followers, "Jewish blood" is the reason why 
Jews are in a different category than non-Jews, including, of course, 
even those non-Jews who are Israeli citizens and who serve in the 
Israeli army. For religious Jews, the blood of non-Jews has no 
intrinsic value; for Likud, it has limited value. Menachem Begin's 
masterful use of such rhetoric about Gentiles brought him votes 
and popularity and thus constitutes a case in point. The difference 
in this respect between Labor and Likud is rhetorical but is 
nevertheless important in that it reveals part of a world outlook. 
In 1982, for example, when the Israeli army occupied Beirut, 
Rabin representing Labor, although advocating the same policies 
as favored by Sharon and Likud, did not explain the Sabra and 
Shatila Camp massacres by stating, as did Begin: "Gentiles kill 
Gentiles and blame the Jews." Even if Rabin had himself been 
capable of saying this, he knew that most of his secular supporters 
in Labor, who distinguish between Gentiles who hate Jews and those 
who do not, would not have tolerated such a statement. They would 
have repudiated such rhetoric as being both untrue and harmful. 

Religious influence is evident in the right's general reverence for 
the Jewish past and its insistence that Jews have an historic right 
to an expanded Israel extending beyond its present borders. More 
than other secular Israelis, members of the Israeli right insist upon 
Jewish uniqueness. During many centuries of their existence, the 
great majority of Jews were similar in some ways to the present- 
day Haredim. Thus, those Jews who today revere the Jewish past 
as evidence of Jewish uniqueness respect to some extent religious 
Jews as perpetuators of that past. An essential part of the right's 
emphasis upon uniqueness is its hatred of the concept of 
"normality," that is, that Jews are similar to other people and have 
the same desire for stability as do other nations. Some cultural 
affinities between secular and religious Jews of the Israeli right are 
not primarily ideological. Many Likud supporters, whether 
Sephardic or Ashkenazi in origin, are traditionalists; they view 
rabbis as glamorous figures and are affected by childhood memories 
of the patriarchal family in which education was dominated by the 
grandfather and the women "knew their place." Although most 
pronounced in those of the religious vanguard, such considerations 
also affect secular Jews of the right. The right often exaggerates the 
beauty and superiority of the Jewish past, especially when arguing 
for the preservation of Jewish uniqueness. 



12 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

The religious and secular members of the right share fears as well 
as beliefs. In an October 6, 1993, article, published in Haaretz, 
Israel's most prestigious daily Hebrew-language newspaper, Doron 
Rosenblum, relying upon varied sources, illustrated this by quoting 
pronouncements of Likud leaders that were designed to show 
Israelis the grave nature and risks of the peace process and at the 
same time to continue the boasting that likud had initiated the 
process. 

Rosenblum quoted the following statement by Likud Member 
of the Knesset (MK) Uzi Landau, who after the 1996 elections was 
appointed chairperson of the Knesset Committee for Defense and 
Foreign Affairs: 

If Rabin's policies toward Syria are followed, one morning they 
[Israeli Jews] will awaken to see columns of Syrian tanks 
descending from the Golan Heights like herds of sheep ... The 
settlements of the Galilee will then be attacked by fire-power 
stronger than that used in [the war of] 1973 ... Since the idea of 
extermination of Israelis remains a topic in the Syrian con- 
sciousness ... any [Israeli] withdrawal from the Golan Heights 
will only precipitate the moment that the Syrian knife will 
approach the throat of every inhabitant of the Galilee ... Syrian 
policies are fixed by a genetic code not subject to rapid changes. 

Apparently keeping to its double-standard approach, the Western 
media, which would almost certainly have blasted any non-Jewish 
politician for attributing Israeli policies to a Jewish genetic code 
not subject to rapid changes, avoided commenting upon the landau 
statement. 

Rosenblum also quoted MK Benny Begin, a major Likud leader, 
who expressed the fear that Syria would make a frontal attack 
upon Israel. This fear is commonly expressed by members of most 
Israeli political parties. What is characteristic of Israel B, however, 
is that, as Benny Begin specifically declared, the aims of a Syrian 
invasion will be the same as "the aims of Pogromists of Kishinev 
to cut Jewish throats." 2 Begin added that this time nuclear scientists 
would help in the Syrian venture. Comparing the unarmed Jewish 
community, a small minority in the Russian Empire, with Israel 
and its army illustrates a common attitude to the Jewish past held 
by the secular right-wing Israeli parties and the religious Jews. 
This attitude takes no cognizance of historical development. Jews 
in whatever condition are always the real or potential victims of 
Gentiles. 

Rosenblum, who is a member of Israel A, perceived all such 
imagery as incongruous. Observing that Landau regarded the 
Syrians as sheep, he asked: "Can it be that he [Landau] means to 



JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM WITHIN JEWISH SOCIETY 1 3 

say that we are wolves?" Rosenblum then offered his analysis of 
why this rhetoric has nevertheless been so persuasive: 

The suspicion is long-standing that members of the national 
camps [that is, the secular right] use power-mad rhetoric to 
cover their subliminal existential fear of the entire world. This 
fear was not dispelled in the slightest when the state of Israel was 
founded. Labor, in spite of all its faults, has succeeded by 
whatever means to cast aside such fear and replace it with a 
constructive and pragmatic world outiook. Likud, which resumed 
its historical note with ease, has not. 

Those chauvinistic Jews who speak with utmost confidence about 
Israel's power and ability to impose its will upon the Middle East 
are most susceptible to such fears. The same people who predict 
that a second Holocaust will almost immediately occur if Israel 
makes any concession to the Arabs also often state categorically 
that the Israeli army, if not restrained by politicians, by Americans, 
or by leftist Jews, could conquer Baghdad within one week. (Ariel 
Sharon actually made this claim a few months before the outbreak 
of the October 1973 war.) The fear and the self-confidence co-exist 
harmoniously. The belief in Jewish uniqueness enhances this co- 
existence. Most foreign observers do not realize that a sizeable 
segment of the Israeli Jewish public holds these chauvinistic views. 
The schizophrenic blend of inordinate fears and exaggerated self- 
confidence, common to the Israeli secular right and religious Jews, 
resembles ideas held by anti-Semites who usually view Jews as being 
at the same time both powerful and easy to defeat. This is one of 
the reasons why attitudes of Israeli right-wing individuals toward 
the Gentiles, especially toward the Arabs, resemble so closely the 
attitudes of anti-Semites toward the Jews. 

The secular right and the religious Jews also share other fears. 
They fear the West and its public opinion. They fear and condemn 
Jewish leftists, a term sufficiently broad to include most Labor 
followers, for not being sufficiently Jewish, for preferring Arabs to 
Jews and for living lives of delusion. They view the left as dangerous 
because of its ability to attract new recruits, especially from the ranks 
of the country's intellectual elite. 

The issue of normalcy most divides the Israeli right from the left. 
The left longs for normalcy and wants Jews to be a nation like all 
other nations. The entire Israeli right, on the other hand, is united 
in its resentment of the idea of normalcy and its belief, along the 
lines of the Jewish religion, that Jews are exceptional - different 
from other people and nations. Reverence for the national past 
allegedly solidifies this uniqueness. Religious Jews believe that 
God made the Jews unique; many of the secular right believe that 



14 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

Jews are doomed to be unique by their past and have no free 
choice in this matter. 

Another, but somewhat less important, reason for the affinity 
between the secular right and religious Jews is that the latter are 
capable of providing "convincing" arguments for perpetual Jewish 
rule over the land of Israel and for the denial of certain basic rights 
to the Palestinians. These arguments are not only put in terms of 
national security but more importantly in terms of the God-given 
right to these territories. The secular Likud scholars and politicians 
are often far too alienated from the Jewish past and Jewish values 
to talk competently, or indeed even to understand properly, such 
matters. Only the religious can provide an in-depth rationale for 
Likud's policies, which are grounded not in short-term strategic 
considerations but rather in the long history of the special 
relationship between God and his chosen people. 

Although far more intense among members of Israel B, these same 
sentiments can be discerned among members of Israel A. This fact 
provides the explanation for the political concessions made to the 
religious parties. (Foreign observers have too often incorrectly 
attributed these concessions merely to the size and/or the lobbying 
power of the religious parties.) These sentiments have also affected 
Jewish historiography and education. Since the late 1950s, and 
especially after the 1967 war, Israeli Jewish historians, scholars in 
allied fields and popularizers, although generally less dishonest in 
their writings than most of their diaspora colleagues, have too 
often unduly beautified and romanticized past Jewish societies and 
have carefully avoided normal criticism. This type of apologia 
constituted a new trend. From the late nineteenth century until the 
mid- twentieth century, early Zionists and others in modern Jewish 
movements were severely critical of many aspects of their own 
religious cultural tradition and tried to change, in many cases even 
to destroy, parts of that tradition. Since the late 1980s, some 
younger Israeli historians, perhaps prompted by a growing 
polarization of Israeli Jewish society, have written and published 
some critical works that have shaken to some extent the still current 
apologetic trend. 

The comparison of the world outlook and fears of the secular 
right with those of the Haredim requires more explanation. Standard 
Haredic perceptions of the world can only be understood as relics 
of pre-modern times. Menachem Friedman, a Westernized 
observant Jew, a highly regarded authority on the Haredim in both 
mandatory Palestine and the state of Israel and a professor at the 
religious Bar-Han University, provided an excellent description of 
these Haredic perceptions in a Davar article published on November 
4, 1988. Friedman wrote this article to explain the electoral fiasco 
that developed from the unsuccessful attempt of some candidates 



JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM WITHIN JEWISH SOCIETY 1 5 

on the religious list of 1988 to advocate some moderation regarding 
the treatment of Palestinians. Friedman explained: 

The Haredi world is Judeocentric. The essence of Haredi thought 
is the notion of an abyss separating the Jews from the Gentiles. 
This is why any coalition between Labor and Haredi doves is 
impossible. There actually is no such thing as a Haredi dove. 
People who speak about the Haredi world usually do not know 
how to read its signs. They do not understand that world nor its 
prominent personalities. The distance between Haredi doves and 
hawks is not great. Haredi doves and hawks share a common point 
of departure. Both see the relationship between non-Jews and 
Jews as they had seen them before Israel was established. They 
assume that non-Jews and Jews are poles apart. Non-Jews want 
to kill and destroy the Jews; the rightful differences between Jews 
should only be about how they should react to the ever-present 
non-Jewish desire. Currently, these are two alternative Haredi 
reactions to that common assumption. Rabbi Shach [the spiritual 
leader of one of the two Haredi factions] says that since the non- 
Jews hate us we need to keep quiet and refrain from provoking 
them by not reminding them of our existence. The Lubovitcher 
Rebbe says that we should be strong. [The Lubovitcher Rebbe, 
Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, died in 1992.] Those are two 
alternative answers, both arising from the common concept that 
a gap separates Jews from non-Jews. Rabbi Shach is not a dove 
in the same sense as Shulamit Aloni [a former Meretz Party 
leader] is a dove. Aloni is a dove, because she believes in a 
humanism that emphasizes the fundamental equality of all human 
beings and nations and the capability of different human beings 
and nations to communicate. Rabbi Shach believes that com- 
municating with non-Jews is not possible and that they may 
only be able to forget that Jews exist. The Lubovitcher Rebbe 
states that we should be strong in order to defend ourselves 
against the non-Jews who always want to destroy us. [The 
difference between the two leaders] can be illustrated by their 
respective attitudes toward the peace [treaty] with Egypt. They 
both say that there is no peace and there can never be one, 
because the Egyptians want to exterminate us. Rabbi Shach, 
however, adds that we should try to minimize [Jewish casualties] 
by keeping quiet. The Lubovitcher Rebbe says that, because the 
peace does not exist in any case, we should refuse to make any 
concessions. The Haredi dove does not believe in any kind of 
peace, and, therefore, all the talk about a narrow coalition, 
headed by Labor [and including Haredim] is completely baseless. 



16 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

Subsequent political developments in Israel, including the election 
of Netanyahu in May 1996, have confirmed the truth of Professor 
Friedman's analysis. From another Haredi perspective Rabbi 
Ovadia Yoseph, the spiritual authority of the Shas Party, 
corroborated this article. Rabbi Yoseph argued in a September 1 8, 
1989 article in Yated Ne'eman that since Israel is too weak to 
demolish all Christian churches in the Holy Land it is also too weak 
to retain all the conquered territories. Using this reasoning, Rabbi 
Yoseph advocated that Israel make territorial concessions in order 
to avert a war in which Jewish lives will be lost. Rabbi Yoseph did 
not mention Palestinians nor even their most rudimentary rights. 
The Haredi world view is similar to the view held by the Israeli 
secular right. The world view of Likud politicians, enthusiastically 
supported by followers, is basically the classic world view of religious 
Jews; it has undergone significant secularization but has kept its 
essential qualities. 

The alliance between the religious and secular parties of the right 
produced the Netanyahu victory in the 1996 election. This alliance 
was forged in spite of two deep political differences between the 
parties. The first difference concerns democracy, especially as 
illustrated by the structure of Israeli parties; the second difference 
revolves around Zionism. 

All Israeli political parties except for the Haredi were and remain 
structured along the lines of parties in Western countries, especially 
those in the United States. Most of the Israeli parties, for example, 
introduced primaries in order to choose their candidates for the 
Knesset elections. The Haredi party structure, however, is different 
and peculiar, perhaps analogous only to what has happened in Iran. 
All the Haredi parties have a two-tier structure. The tier that is lower 
in importance includes the acting politicians, who, even if they are 
ministers or Knesset members, humbly profess in public that they 
are merely serving the party's rabbinical sage councils whom they 
consult for directions before making any decisions. None of the 
Haredi politicians of any one party accept direction from rabbinical 
councils of other Haredi parties. The councils' deliberations are 
kept secret; their decisions are not subject to any appeal since they 
are regarded as divinely inspired. The council members are not 
elected either by rabbis or lay people. If a council member dies, 
his successor is appointed by the remaining members. The rabbinical 
members of Haredi party councils, usually referred to by their 
followers as sages, make all decisions and view with suspicion the 
usual party structure, because it is viewed as innovative and modern. 
The modern political party structure, including membership, 
branches, internal elections and a host of other items that exist in 
the NRP, is totally absent in the Haredi parties. The disagreement 
and sometimes even hatreds of one another by Haredi parties stem 



JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM WITHIN JEWISH SOCIETY 1 7 

from recognition of different rabbinical "sages" as final authorities. 
The Haredi political structure has preserved a male monopoly. To 
date, there have been no female Haredi politicians. Haredi disunity 
has prevented more rapid Haredization of parts of Israeli society. 
Structure similar to the Haredi was common in Jewish communities 
from the second century of the common era until the abolition of 
Jewish communal autonomy in modern nation states. The aim of 
Haredi practices has been and still is to preserve the Jewish way of 
life as it existed prior to modern times. Haredi parties, in their 
attempt to preserve an ancient Jewish regime, have to date 
constituted a political backlash directed against the tide of modernity 
that engulfed the NRP. The Haredi reaction, like many others, is 
often disguised as a romantic desire to return to a past that was 
allegedly happier and more emotionally secure for Jews than the 
modern life with its doubts and uncertainties. The Haredi-indoc- 
trinated community strives to suppress all doubts of members and 
believes that happiness is thus achieved. 

The disagreement between Haredim and most other Israeli 
Jews over Zionism is complex. The Haredim and the Zionists agree 
about the centrally important Zionist principle that anti-Semitism 
is an eternal quality common to all non-Jews and is different from 
xenophobia and/or any hatred of other minorities. This view is, 
of course, similar to that held of Jews by anti-Semites. (This 
similarity probably accounts for the political contact between 
some Zionists, beginning with Herzl, and "moderate" anti-Semites, 
who only wanted to rid their societies of Jews or limit the numbers 
of Jews in their societies without killing them.) The views 
concerning and the fears of anti-Semitism shared by the secular 
right and the Haredim accord with this central principle of Zionism 
better than do the views currendy held by the left Labor and 
Meretz parties, which are frequently accused by Likud of not 
being sufficiently Zionist. 

Haredi ideology nevertheless clashes with Zionism on certain 
other principles. Two major examples are the Zionist aims to 
concentrate all Jews, or as many as possible, in and to establish a 
Jewish state in Palestine. These aims or dogmas contradict the 
Haredi interpretations of the Talmud and talmudic commentaries. 
Because of the perceived contradiction, Haredim have consistently 
proclaimed, and still proclaim, their strong opposition to Zionism; 
they claim that the state of Israel is merely another diaspora for Jews, 
and they avoid using Zionist symbols. Every Israeli political party 
other than the Haredi, including the NRP, end or begin their 
conventions with the singing of "Hatikva," the Israeli national and 
the world Zionist movement anthem; the Haredi parties and orga- 
nizations do not do this but instead recite Jewish prayers. The media 
often condemns the Haredim for not singing "Hatikva" on official 



18 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

occasions. At all international Zionist conventions held in Israel 
only the Israeli flag is displayed. At Haredi conventions held in Israel 
all flags of the nation states from which delegates came, including 
Israel, are displayed in alphabetical order. 

The Haredi objection to Zionism is based upon the contradic- 
tion between classical Judaism, of which the Haredim are the 
continuators, and Zionism. Numerous Zionist historians have 
unfortunately obfuscated the issues here. Some detailed explanation 
is therefore necessary. In a famous talmudic passage in Tractate 
Ketubot y page 111, which is echoed in other parts of the Talmud, 
God is said to have imposed three oaths on the Jews. Two of these 
oaths that clearly contradict Zionist tenets are: 1) Jews should not 
rebel against non-Jews, and 2) as a group should not massively 
emigrate to Palestine before the coming of the Messiah. (The third 
oath, not discussed here, enjoins the Jews not to pray too strongly 
for the coming of the Messiah, so as not to bring him before his 
appointed time.) During the course of post-talmudic Jewish history, 
rabbis extensively discussed the three oaths. Of major concern in 
this discussion was the question of whether or not specific Jewish 
emigration to Palestine was part of the forbidden massive 
emigration. During the past 1,500 years, the great majority of 
traditional Judaism's most important rabbis interpreted the three 
oaths and the continued existence of the Jews in exile as religious 
obligations intended to expiate the Jewish sins that caused God to 
exile them. 

In recent years, a number of Israeli Jewish scholars, who in 
general have developed a more honest Jewish historiography, have 
focused upon the essence of rabbinical interpretations of the three 
oaths. In his highly regarded scholarly book, Messianism, Zionism 
and Jewish Religious Radicalism (published in Hebrew in Israel in 
1993), Aviezer Ravitzky, for example, provided a good summary 
of rabbinical interpretations of the three oaths from the fifth century 
ad (or CE - Common Era). In his analysis Ravitzky noted that in 
the ninth century Rabbi Shmuel, son of Hosha'ana, an important 
leader of Palestinian Jewry, in a poetic prayer quoted the following 
as God's words. "I took the oath of my people not to rebel against 
Christians and Muslims, told them to be silent until I myself will 
overturn them as I did in Sodom." In the thirteenth century during 
the time that some rabbis and poets emigrated to Palestine for 
religious reasons, 3 Ravitzky continued, other rabbis in many parts 
of the world quoted the three oaths theory to warn against the spread 
of this potentially dangerous phenomenon. Rabbi Eliezer, son of 
Moshe, the spiritual leader of a Jewish congregation in Wurtzburg, 
Germany, in the thirteenth century warned Jews who wrongly 
emigrated to Palestine that God would punish them with death. 
At about the same time, Rabbi Ezra of Gerona, Spain, a famous 



JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM WITHIN JEWISH SOCIETY 19 

cabbalist, wrote that a Jew emigrating to Palestine forsakes God 
who is only present in the diaspora, where a majority of Jews live, 
and not in Palestine. In his book Ravitzky stressed that similar and 
even more extreme views continued to be expressed until the 
nineteenth century. The celebrated German rabbi, Yehonathan 
Eibshutz, wrote in the mid-eighteenth century that massive 
immigration of Jews to Palestine, even with the consent of all the 
nations of the world, was prohibited before the coming of the 
Messiah. In the early nineteenth century, Moses Mendelsohn and 
other supporters of the Jewish Enlightenment, as well as their 
opponents such as Rabbi Rafael Hirsch, the father of modern 
orthodoxy in Germany, agreed and continued to derive this 
prohibition from the three oaths. Hirsch wrote in 1837 that God 
had commanded Jews "never to establish a state of their own by 
their own efforts." Rabbis in Central Europe were even more 
extreme. In 1837, the same year that Hirsch prohibited Jews from 
declaring a Jewish state, an earthquake in northern Palestine killed 
a majority of the inhabitants of Safad, of which many were Jews, 
some of whom had recently immigrated. Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, 
a leading Hungarian rabbi, attributed the earthquake to God's 
displeasure with excessive Jewish emigration to Palestine. 
Teitelbaum stated: "It is not God's will that we should go to the 
land of Israel by our own efforts and will." Rabbi Moshe 
Nachmanides, who died in 1270, was the one exceptional Jewish 
leader who opined that Jews should not only emigrate to but should 
also conquer the land of Israel. Other important rabbis of that time 
and for many centuries thereafter ignored or strongly disagreed with 
the view of Nachmanides. 

In the 1970s, seven centuries after his death, Nachmanides 
became the patron saint of the NRP and the Gush Emunim settlers. 
NRP rabbis also have claimed that the three oaths do not apply in 
messianic times and that, although the Messiah has not yet 
appeared, a cosmic process called the beginning of redemption has 
begun. During this period some of the previous religious laws 
should allegedly be disregarded; others should be changed. Thus, 
the dispute between the NRP and the Haredim has centered upon 
the issue of whether Jews are living in normal times or in the period 
of the beginning of redemption. Having made some political gains 
and becoming more self-confident after the 1988 national election, 
the Haredim strengthened their principled opposition to Zionism 
and to the NRP. In 1989, the two most important Haredi rabbis, 
Rabbi Shach and Rabbi Yoseph, held an anti-Zionist convention 
in Bnei Brak, Israel. Their speeches, devoted to expressions of 
principled opposition to Zionism and the beginning of redemption 
doctrine, were published in the Haredi newspaper, YatedNe'eman, 
on September 18, 1989. The two rabbis from an halachic 



20 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

perspective also addressed the vital Israeli political issue of whether 
some areas of the land of Israel should be given to non-Jews, that 
is, to Palestinians. They refuted the NRP and Gush Emunim view 
that in accordance with the beginning of redemption no land of 
Israel should be given to non-Jews. Rabbi Yoseph and Shach 
argued that Jews still live in normal times when visible help of God 
cannot always be expected to save Jewish lives. 

Rabbi Yoseph, renowned for his halachic erudition, presented 
in-depth analysis and correctly noted that Rabbi Shach here agreed 
fully with him. Rabbi Yoseph began by disagreeing with the NRP 
and Gush Emunim rabbis who argued that the beginning of 
redemption and God's commandment to conquer the land of 
Israel were more important than the saving of Jewish lives that would 
be lost in the war of conquest. Rabbi Yoseph acknowledged that 
in messianic times Jews would be more powerful than non-Jews 
and would then be obligated to conquer the land of Israel, to expel 
all non-Jews and to destroy the idolatrous Christian churches. 
Rabbi Yoseph, however, asserted that the messianic time of 
redemption had not yet arrived. He wrote: 

The Jews are not in fact more powerful than the non-Jews and 
are unable to expel the non-Jews from the land of Israel because 
the Jews fear the non-Jews ... God's commandment is then not 
valid . . . Even non-Jews who are idolaters live among us with no 
possibility of their being expelled or even moved. The Israeli 
government is obligated by international law to guard the 
Christian churches in the land of Israel, even though those 
churches are definitely places of idolatry and cult practice. This 
is so in spite of the fact that we are commanded by our [religious] 
law to destroy all idolatry and its servants until we uproot it from 
all parts of our land and any areas that we are able to conquer 
... Surely, this fact continues to weaken the religious meaning 
of the Israeli army's conquests [in 1967]. 

The quotation cited above illustrates well a part of Israel's realpolitik. 
Before the 1996 election, both Peres and Netanyahu regarded 
Rabbi Yoseph as an important political figure and often courted 
him openly. This was done in spite of Yoseph's publicly declared 
doctrine that Jews, when sufficiently powerful, have a religious 
obligation to expel all non-Jews from the country and destroy all 
Christian churches. Leftists and most peace advocates in Israel 
lauded Yoseph and Shach for agreeing to withdrawal from the 
occupied territories but neglected to mention and actually 
suppressed the major thrust of the Yoseph and Shach position. For 
the most part the Western media avoided reporting the most 
essential points of the Yoseph speech. The reality here is that the 



JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM WITHIN JEWISH SOCIETY 21 

Yoseph-Shach view constitutes one part of the hawkish heart of 
Israeli politics. 

In his speech Rabbi Yoseph also acknowledged the halachic 
prohibition of selling real estate to non-Jews in the land of Israel, 
but he limited this prohibition to a time when doing so would not 
cause the loss of Jewish life. In the same manner he dealt with the 
issue of whether Jews should trust only in the hope of God's help 
or should take their own precautions against danger or war. Yoseph 
contended that this issue is analogous to the question of whether 
a Jew who is ill on Yom Kippur should be given food to save his 
or her life. In the latter case, according to Rabbi Yoseph, the Jew 
who is ill should be given food even if the medical experts disagree 
with one another about the danger to life that would exist if the 
fast were observed. Following this line of reasoning, Rabbi Yoseph 
opined that, even if the military experts disagreed with one another 
as to whether withdrawal from the territories would avert war, the 
government should order withdrawal. Rabbi Yoseph, not influenced 
by the trusting-in-God argument, pointed out that Jews had been 
killed in previous wars and that the miraculous coming of the 
Messiah establishing God's rule over the world would occur without 
the loss of a single Jewish life. Rabbi Yoseph also noted that the 
state of Israel is filled with Jewish sinners who provoke God. He 
quoted numerous rabbinical authorities who agreed with him that 
the three oaths were still valid. 

Rabbi Yoseph's view did not interest Rabin, Peres or Netanyahu. 
His dazzling display of erudition, occupying three large pages of small 
print, moreover, did not convince a single NRP rabbi. Rabbis 
Yoseph and Shach, who a bit later became enemies, continued to 
oppose Zionism and the beginning of redemption doctrine; they 
continued to advocate their variety of Jewish fundamentalism and 
to command the allegiance in 1 996 of fourteen members of the 1 20- 
member Knesset. Rabbi Shach, who is more extreme in his 
opposition to Zionism than is Rabbi Yoseph, prohibited the Knesset 
members of his political party, Yahadut Ha'Torah, from becoming 
ministers in Netanyahu's Zionist government. Shach, however, 
ordered his party's Knesset members to support the Netanyahu 
government. Netanyahu rewarded Yahadut Ha'Torah by creatively 
giving it control of the ministry of housing. Netanyahu made himself 
the housing minister and signed almost blindly anything submitted 
by Deputy Minister Ravitz of the Yahadut Ha'Torah Party. This 
procedure was obviously employed to obviate the necessity of 
Yahadut Ha'Torah's formally joining a Zionist government while 
nevertheless enjoying its benefits. Contrary to Rabbi Shach, Rabbi 
Yoseph ordered members of his party to become ministers in the 
Netanyahu government. These facts illustrated the political 
importance of Rabbis Yoseph's and Shach's views. 



22 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

Rabbi Yoseph's clearly expressed views on the territories not only 
reflect the Haredi view but also clearly resemble a great part of the 
actual foreign policy of the state of Israel. Rabbi Yoseph has argued 
that Jews have a religious duty to expel all Christians from the state 
of Israel only if doing so would not endanger Jewish life. Rabbi 
Yoseph has postulated that any Jewish concessions to non-Jews in 
the state of Israel has to be based solely upon the consideration of 
whether denial thereof could prove harmful for Jews. Rabbi Yoseph 
would almost certainly have favored a permanent occupation of all 
the territories if he were convinced that this would not provoke Arabs 
to harm Jews. Israeli governmental leaders with almost full support 
of Israeli Jews believed after the June 1967 war that the Arabs were 
incapable of harming Israel and therefore refused to make any 
concessions. Only after suffering grievous losses in the October 1973 
war, and fearing another war, did the government of the state of 
Israel, again with almost the full support of Israeli Jews, agreed to 
return the Sinai to Egypt. In 1983, even after the massacres at Sabra 
and Shatila, the Israeli leaders contemplated permanent occupation 
of one-third of Lebanon and domination of the remaining two- 
thirds. Sharon concluded a peace treaty, based upon those terms, 
with the then puppet Lebanese government. The guerilla warfare, 
conducted by the Lebanese in 1984 and 1985, which resulted in 
consistent Israeli casualties, caused the Israeli leaders to abandon 
those plans and to retreat. Israeli foreign policy, although usually 
conceived and conducted by secular Jews, has to date displayed 
an essence derived in part from the Jewish religious past. Indeed, 
the Zionist movement, which underwent a partial secularization, 
also kept many basic Jewish religious principles. Rabbi Yoseph, Ben- 
Gurion, Sharon and all major Israeli politicians share a common 
ground in policy advocacy. 



The Rise of the Haredim in Israel 



Although expanding steadily from the early 1970s, Jewish religious 
fundamentalism in Israel attracted relatively little interest in the 
dominant secularly oriented Israeli society until 1988. Members 
of the various Haredi sects, generally self-contained in residentially 
segregated areas of Israeli cities, led lives absorbed by concerns and 
preoccupations that appeared exotic at best to outsiders. Although 
some members of these sects clashed sharply over specific issues 
with the secular part of Israeli society and at those times acquired 
a bit of public attention, they were mostly ignored. The sensational 
Haredi political success in the Israeli parliamentary elections of 
1988, predicted by none of the professional pollsters, surprised 
many people. Because of their continued political successes in 
succeeding elections through the 1990s, the Haredim put 
themselves into a position at various times to be able to dictate to 
the Israeli secular majority. 

The Haredi political successes not only caused many Israeli 
Jews to look more closely at and to be more concerned with the 
Haredim but also sparked increased attention abroad, especially 
in the United States. The interest generated in the United States 
prompted the writing and publication of many new books and 
articles in English that focused upon the folkloristic aspects of the 
Haredim but unfortunately largely ignored their basic ideology 
and world oudook. The following discussion will attempt to analyze, 
particularly for those readers who are not literate in Hebrew, the 
political importance of the Haredi upsurge. A crucial part of this 
analysis is the acceptance of the well-documented proposition that 
an understanding of the entire Israeli political right is to some 
extent dependent upon an understanding of the basic elements of 
Heredi politics, apart from the disagreements, splits and reunifi- 
cation efforts of many Heredi individuals and sects. The two major 
questions to be analyzed are: 

• How have the Haredi parties secured their political influence? 

• What organizational structure have the Haredi employed for 
maximum political success? 

Concern with education has provided the major answer to both 
questions. The Haredi have on balance successfully educated their 

23 



24 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

own children and other Jewish children, over whom they have 
obtained custody, in a manner guaranteeing maximum continuity. 
The Haredi have influenced many Israeli Jews in addition to their 
own by acquiring direct authority over several school networks and 
by indirectly influencing numbers of other schools. 

Throughout the twentieth century, the Haredim have attempted 
to continue Jewish education as it had mostly existed in the diaspora 
before the Enlightenment influenced Jewish society. The 
governments in the countries in which the Haredim lived, however, 
have at times insisted upon some modernized curricular content 
that was inconsistent with and in opposition to what had previously 
been taught in Jewish schools. This was the case in Israel until 1980. 
Since 1 980, helped by generous Israeli governmental subsidies, the 
Haredim have attempted with some success to reimpose the earlier 
type of Jewish education and the earlier school networking system 
in many poorer provincial Israeli towns and in slum areas of larger 
Israeli cities. The Haredi goal has obviously been to perpetuate their 
educational influence upon an increasing segment of younger- 
generation Israelis. 

Historically, Jewish schooling began with the heder for Jewish 
male children aged three or four. (The heder, a word meaning 
'room' in Hebrew, was the name of the traditional Jewish elementary 
school as it existed from talmudic times in the earliest centuries of 
the Common Era until the formation of the first modern nation- 
states at which time many Jews strove to modify or abolish the 
heder.) The heder was previously for males only. According to the 
Talmud and the Halacha, females do not need education and are 
explicitly forbidden from some forms of study. Until modern times, 
most Jewish women received no formal education and were mostly 
illiterate. This stood in striking contrast to Jewish males. Faced with 
governments of modern nation states and with many Jews 
themselves reacting against and abolishing the exclusion of females 
from formal education, the Haredim established special institutions 
to train, more precisely to indoctrinate, young Haredi girls to 
accept and to agree to inferior education. Heder education consists 
only of sacred, Jewish studies. Secular subjects, including arithmetic, 
foreign languages, science, literature and Hebrew grammar are 
excluded. Most of the Bible is included among subjects not taught. 
After studying the Pentateuch with the help of a commentary by 
Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki who died in 1099), the students 
proceed directly to study of the easier parts of the Talmud. After 
studying about eight years, the less capable students are sent to 
various places to learn a craft, trade or some other occupation; the 
more capable are admitted to an institution of higher learning 
called a yeshiva. (Yeshiva in Hebrew means sitting or meeting.) 
Usually, several levels of "yeshivot" (plural) exist. The weeding- 



THE RISE OF THE HAREDIM IN ISRAEL 25 

out process of students continues at each level. Those students who 
are found to be less capable are directed to moneymaking pursuits 
and somewhat later to involvement in religious services as minor 
rabbis or as supervisors of religious kashrut rules in restaurants, 
hospitals, the army and other institutions. The more capable 
students proceed in their learning by going from one yeshiva level 
to another. After graduating from the highest yeshiva and marrying, 
the best of the students spend their lives in an institution called a 
kollel (a term derived from the word meaning "entire") and spend 
their time studying only talmudic literature. A few of the most 
capable are later appointed to high rabbinic positions or become 
heads of yeshivot or kollels. 

As mentioned previously, traditional Jewish education, described 
above, does not include any secular or humanistic studies. It is worth 
re-emphasizing that this exclusion of secular subjects includes not 
only mathematics, all sciences and foreign languages but also 
Hebrew literature, which includes poetry dealing with religious 
subjects, grammar and Jewish history. It is thus no surprise that 
Hebrew religious poetry, even the medieval masterpieces, are 
unknown to the Haredim. Only the sacred studies (a pre-modern 
term in Judaism) are taught with the greatest possible intensity. The 
sacred studies consist mostly of the Talmud and some subsequent 
talmudic literature. At the highest yeshiva level, one out of twelve 
to fourteen hours per day of sacred studies may be devoted to the 
study of morality, which primarily consists of lurid descriptions of 
the punishment, inflicted by God either in the life of this world or 
in hell, for even the smallest deviations from religious 
commandments. The teachings of the biblical prophets, the books 
of Job and Ecclesiastes and numerous other parts of the Bible are 
studied neither in the heders nor the yeshivot and are therefore 
unknown to the Haredim. Except for the Pentateuch, Haredim 
know only those parts of the Bible quoted in the Talmud and then 
only within the context of talmudic interpretation. Haredim 
generally lack knowledge of major parts of the Bible; this lack of 
knowledge constitutes one source of the differences between the 
Haredim and some other religious as well as most secular Israeli 
Jews. Yeshiva students are often deprived of sleep. After reaching 
the age of sixteen, Yeshiva students devote at least twelve to 
fourteen hours per day to study. The classes are noisy, because the 
students shout about what they are studying. Studying in silence 
is considered to be a sin. Chaos is often the result in the classroom; 
different students often shout about different passages of texts. 
Students may ask questions about the internal matters of what is 
being studied but never about the assumptions upon which inter- 
pretations are made or about the external world. Students are 
most often isolated from the outside world, especially from the 



26 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

secular world. Students are prohibited from contact with 
unbelievers. The teacher's authority is extensive and almost absolute. 
The main teacher or the head of the yeshiva usually will select the 
wives for students. 

The type of education described above has shaped human 
character. It also inevitably has produced dissenters. The first 
Jewish dissenters from Judaism in modern times rebelled against 
this type of education and became principled opponents of the 
religion that from their perspectives tried to subject them to such 
totalitarian controls. Other individuals, schooled in the Haredi 
tradition, have ultimately yielded to temptations of modernity, such 
as watching television and attending movies. This usually has 
resulted in a weakening of commitment to Haredi Judaism but 
seldom to its renunciation. In Israel such persons have been and 
still are called "traditional" or "Mesorati." These people have 
usually remained - and still are - outwardly uncritical of what they 
learned; they have continued to worship the charismatic rabbis 
without paying any price for renunciating the prohibition of 
forbidden secular pleasures. Others who have strayed but have 
not undergone self-emancipation have after a temporary break 
returned to sacred studies to be again indoctrinated by their 
education. 

The Haredim emphasize the sanctity and predominant 
importance of the sacred studies; they believe that the virtue 
emanating from those engaged in sacred studies is responsible for 
all good happenings for Jews. For that reason those who engage in 
sacred studies are not required to make their own livings, are 
granted numerous privileges and are exempted from communal 
duties. All of this originated and became universal among Jews in 
talmudic times. Living in autonomous communities, in which they 
retained local rule, Jews could and did determine that individuals 
engaged in sacred studies be exempted from paying taxes and 
from most other obligations and burdens for which members of 
the community were responsible. Additionally, the disciples of the 
sages, those who reached a specified high degree of proficiency in 
the sacred studies, were granted special privileges in many areas 
of life over which the Jewish community had control. During 
talmudic times (c. ad 200-500) in Iraq, for example, the disciples 
of the sages, who also were merchants, were granted the privilege 
of selling their merchandise before ordinary Jews were allowed to 
do so in the markets of Jewish towns. That meant that these 
disciples of the sages had no competition. 

A burning issue in Jewish history, and in Israeli politics, is how 
rabbis and rabbinical students earn their livelihoods. In Israel the 
constantly increasing burden of support weighs heavily upon 
taxpayers, most of whom are not religious. This has provoked and 



THE RISE OF THE HAREDIM IN ISRAEL 27 

continues to provoke resentment, especially when combined with 
the fact that a majority of rabbinical students do not have to serve 
in the army. Most Israeli religious Jews, especially the Haredim, 
attempt to justify state support and freedom from army service by 
arguing that the Jews and the Jewish state of Israel exist by virtue 
of their support of talmudic study. Their support is supposedly 
responsible in turn for God's support, which includes God's 
allowing Israel to win its wars. This argument, similar to arguments 
made by clergy of other religions and frequently emphasized in the 
Israeli media, alleges that God's help not soldiers win wars. This 
argument specifies that God provides other benefits as well. He, 
for example, grants good weather because of rabbis and students 
who spend most of their time studying Talmud. Engaging in such 
study is the best way, better than reciting prayers, giving charity 
or performing other good deeds, to gain entrance into paradise. 
Those who engage in talmudic study make it possible for themselves, 
their families, their financial supporters and, to some extent, other 
Jews to enter paradise. 

Direct financial support of rabbis and students of Talmud is, 
nevertheless, a relatively new innovation in Judaism. During the 
lengthy period of Talmud composition, approximately 50 bc to ad 
500, and for centuries thereafter, rabbis and students received no 
salaries or any other forms of financial support for talmudic study. 
(Elementary teachers who taught Bible to small children were 
paid.) Indeed, the Talmud itself prohibited payments for talmudic 
study. Some talmudic sages were working-class people who had 
well-known professions and earned their livelihoods from their 
labors. The only form of financial reward that was allowed for a 
talmudic sage was a recompense for not working. This can be 
illustrated by a talmudic anecdote about one of the most important 
sages, Abaye, who lived in Babylonia in the fourth century ad. Abaye 
was a farmer and cultivated his farm by himself. If asked a question 
by someone while working, he told the questioner: "Work on this 
irrigation canal for me while I ponder your question." The last 
important rabbi who fully supported such behavior was 
Maimonides, who died in 1204. Maimonides' ruling in his Learning 
Torah Laws (chapter 3, verse 10) is often quoted by secular, Jewish 
Israelis: 

Anyone supposing that he will engage in Torah [talmudic study] 
and not engage in labor, thus taking his livelihood from charity, 
should be considered a person who has extinguished the light of 
religion, put Torah to shame, caused evil to himself and lost his 
chance to enter paradise, since it is forbidden to make profit form 
the sayings of Torah in this world. The sages said: "Everyone 
who makes profit from the sayings of Torah loses his life." They 



28 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

[the sages] have also ordered and said: "Do not make it [Torah] 
either a crown in which to boast or an axe with which to work." 
And they [the sages] have further ordered and said: "Love labor 
and hate the rabbinate." All Torah not accompanied by labor 
will be nullified, and the end of such a person [so engaged] will 
be that he will rob the people. 

Many Israeli secular Jews use this statement of Maimonides to 
document their contention that all rabbis, especially rabbis in 
Israel, are robbers. 

Why for centuries have almost all religious Jews not paid attention 
to the opinion of Maimonides, which is solidly based on many 
talmudic passages? The answer is that religious Jews read any 
sacred text, including the Talmud and the writings of Maimonides, 
only with the help of the most sacred commentaries that become 
the accepted religious opinions. Regarding the above-quoted 
passage of Maimonides, the most important, subsequent 
commentary is "Kesef Mishne" ("an addition of silver"), written 
by Rabbi Joseph Karo, who died in 1575. Karo, the author of 
ShulhanAruch which to date is the most authoritative compendium 
of the Halacha, opposed the opinion of Maimonides on this issue. 
Almost all subsequent rabbis accepted the opposing position of 
Karo. In the beginning of his "Kesef Mishne," Karo mentioned 
that Maimonides in his commentary on Mishne wrote at length 
against salaries of rabbis and presented a sizeable list of talmudic 
rabbis who were laborers receiving no salaries for talmudic studies. 
Karo wrote: 

He, let his memory be blessed [Maimonides], brought the 
example of Hillel, who was a wood-cutter while a talmudic 
student. This is not proof. We must assume that he [Hillel] 
engaged in labor only at the beginning of his studies. In his 
[Hillel's] time there were thousands of talmudic students; 
perhaps, they gave financial support only to the most famous 
among them . . . But how can we assume that when Hillel became 
famous and was teaching the people they did not give him 
financial support? 

Religious Jews in Israel use this form of reasoning, which without 
adequate proof attributes customs of current rabbis to the hallowed 
past. Secular Israeli Jews often have satirized such reasoning by 
telling a joke that is known to almost every Israeli Jew. This joke 
is based upon the fact that, although no halachic reference exists 
concerning an obligation of a male Jew to wear a head covering, 
there is no other visible custom to which religious Jews are 
universally so faithful. Indeed, the popular Hebrew saying for a 



THE RISE OF THE HAREDIM IN ISRAEL 29 

formerly religious male that became secular is "He took off his 
skullcap." The joke centers upon a rabbi's being asked to provide 
the proof for the obligation that male Jews must wear head coverings. 
The rabbi in the joke answers: "The Bible says: 'And Abraham went' 
[to a certain place] . Can you imagine that he went without a head 
covering?" The joke's ridiculing of the usual mode of rabbinic 
reasoning is obvious. 

Karo argued that all famous sages, described in the Talmud itself 
as laborers or craftsmen, must have been given financial support. 
Karo concluded by arguing that priests in the temple were paid for 
their work and that, therefore, rabbis, who are equivalent to priests, 
should be paid. Talmudic students should be paid, Karo 
maintained, because without students there would be no rabbis. 
"Those in control of the usual expenditures [in Jewish congrega- 
tions] should be compelled to pay the rabbis," he stated. "The 
current custom is that all Jewish rabbis receive their salaries from 
the [Jewish] public." This was the general custom in the sixteenth 
century, except in some distant communities such as Yemen. The 
salaries of rabbis continually increased as did the occasions on which 
they took fees from their captive public. Evidence of rabbinic 
corruption in Jewish communities since the latter part of the 
seventeenth century is abundant. The rabbinate's alliance with rich 
people in oppressing poor people, especially in Ashkenazi 
communities, and the use of bribery and other undue influence in 
the appointments of rabbis are but two of the many aspects of this 
corruption. Corrupt practices of many Israeli rabbis, both Haredi 
and NRP, have been well-documented by the Israeli Hebrew press 
and are widely known in Israel. This corruption is a continuation 
of a long-term trend. 

The granting of special privileges for pursuing sacred studies exists 
in modern Israeli society. One of the most controversial issues in 
the State of Israel has been, and continues to be, the deferments 
from military service for most students and graduates of yeshivot. 
These students and graduates first receive a draft deferment on the 
basis of declarations from heads of yeshivot. When their deferments 
expire, the students or graduates are either entirely exempted from 
army service or are inducted directly into the army reserve forces 
after undergoing only brief and cursory recruit training. They are 
disqualified from serving in any dangerous or even unpleasant 
capacities. Their chances of being killed or wounded in wartime 
are thus greatly reduced. Their deferments mean that these students 
or graduates do not have to serve in the army for the period of three 
years, which is compulsory for all other Israeli Jewish males who 
are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. In his analysis 
of this situation, Ehud Asheri reported in his August 22, 1996 article, 



30 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

published in Haaretz, that at that time 5 per cent of all Jewish males 
were so deferred. 

The vehement passions aroused by and the debates over this issue 
have antagonistically deepened the split between Israeli Jewish 
secularists and the Haredim. Currently, many secular Jews 
complain, as they and others have in the past, that the Haredim 
do not share equally with other Israeli Jews the tasks and burdens 
imposed upon society. The Haredim argue, as they continually have 
in the past, that such reasoning is fallacious. Influenced by their 
education, the Haredim are convinced that all victories as well as 
defeats of the Israeli army are due to God's intervention and that 
without doubt God takes into consideration the numbers, progress 
in study and commitment of those Jews who engage in talmudic 
study. The Haredim cite numerous passages in the Talmud and 
in subsequent talmudic literature that are emphatic on this point. 
Not only the privileged students and graduates of yeshivot but also 
traditional Israeli Jews support the Haredim and the cited sacred 
Jewish writings on this point. 

The attitude of many secular Israeli Jews towards sacred studies 
and the Talmud is the exact opposite of that held by the Haredim. 
Secularly oriented parodies of the Talmud have remained popular 
and still abound in Israeli society. Many of these parodies revolve 
around the Haredi rationale underlying the deferment and exclusion 
from military service. In December 1988, for example, during one 
of the recurrent disputations about the deferment from service of 
yeshiva students, the Haredim pointed to the talmudic version of 
the biblical account of the victories of Yo'av, the general of King 
David. The Haredim quoted the talmudic interpretation that these 
victories were attributable to David's sacred studies, since in their 
view Talmud in an oral form dated back to Moses and perhaps to 
Abraham and was written later. Some secular writers responded 
publicly that David rather remained at home and sent Yo'av to fight, 
because he was occupied in committing adultery with Bathsheba 
and causing the death of her husband, Uriah. One columnist in 
the Israeli press, certainly not Haredi-oriented, opined that David 
was probably more keen about studying Bathsheba's bodily 
curvature than he was about studying the Talmud. Such debate 
has had, and continues to have, a bearing upon Israel similar in 
some ways to the effect upon politics that similar debate had in 
Christian Europe in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. What many 
foreign observers of Israeli Jewish society have not grasped is that, 
even with the scientific and technological accomplishments in 
Israel, the Haredim and most other Israeli Jewish fundamentalists 
live figuratively in a time period that corresponds closely to European 
Christian societies many generations ago. These fundamentalists 
have not made the quantum leap, as have secular Israelis, into 



THE RISE OF THE HAREDIM IN ISRAEL 3 1 

modern times. The tension between fundamentalist and secular 
Israelis, therefore, stems mostiy from the fact that these two groups 
live in different time periods. 

Haredim often propound theories even more extreme than those 
mentioned previously. Many Haredi rabbis, for example, assert that 
the Holocaust, including most particularly the deaths of one-and- 
a-half million Jewish children, was a well-deserved divine 
punishment, not only for all the sins of modernity and faith 
renunciation by many Jews, but also for the decline of Talmudic 
study in Europe. The Haredim and their traditional Jewish followers 
attribute the death of every Jew, including each innocent child, not 
to natural causes but to direct action of God. The Haredim believe 
that God punishes each Jew for his or her sins and sometimes 
punishes the entire Jewish community, including many who are 
innocent, because of the sins committed by other Jews. In 1985, 
when twenty-two children, twelve and thirteen years of age, were 
killed in the town of Petah Tikva in a traffic accident involving their 
bus, Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, one of the heads of the Shas Party and 
the then Minister of the Interior, stated in a television appearance 
that the children were victims, because a movie house was allowed 
to remain open on the Sabbath eve. Many members of the Hebrew 
press, predominantly representing secular Jews, attacked Rabbi 
Peretz mercilessly for making this statement. The Shas Party, 
nevertheless, in the next election did not lose but rather gained votes 
in various places, including Petah Tikva. The Haredim held and 
advocate similar beliefs about God's punishing and rewarding Jews 
in many areas of life on the basis of Jews' either committing sins 
or following God's word. 

In the late 1990s, the primary concern of the Haredim is to expand 
their educational system, especially in poorer localities wherein they 
successfully offer material inducements such as hot meals. The 
Haredim strongly lobby the non-Haredi public schools with their 
propaganda. In some places these lobbying efforts are successful. 
In other areas the fierce opposition by parents who are educated 
and politically effective thwarts the Haredi propaganda and lobbying 
efforts. Haredi influence is sometimes extreme in specific places. 
In Netivot, one of the most religious towns in Israel, for example, 
the Haredim have successfully opposed any public high school, 
because it would be obligated to provide instruction in secular 
subjects. Netivot is the only Jewish town in Israel without a high 
school. 

In order to proselytize and to spread their superstitions, Haredim 
often exploit the distress of people. Relatives of terminally ill 
hospital patients, especially if they are traditional, are often 
approached by messengers of a charismatic rabbi, who first reiterate 
that the doctors cannot help and then suggest that the relatives buy 



32 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

some sacred water, consecrated by a certain rabbi, and smear the 
patient with it. The messengers relate stories about miracles that 
occur after the use of this sacred water, which is never distributed 
without a non-returnable payment. The messengers, of course, never 
mention the failure of sacred water miracles. The secular Hebrew 
press at times will report on the failure of these miracles, especially 
when a large amount of money is known to have been spent for 
the sacred water. Such reporting, however, most often only deepens 
the chasm between those who read and those who do not read but 
loathe the secular Hebrew press. In their own press the Haredim 
not only attack the secular press but also display their general 
hostility towards secular Israeli Jews. Until the later part of the 1 980s, 
most of the Israeli Jewish public paid little attention to the Haredi 
press. Since then, general public attention has increased 
considerably. Dov Albaum, one of Israel's foremost experts on 
Haredi affairs, focused upon this point in two Hebrew-language 
articles, one published in the August 30, 1996 issue of the 
newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, the other published in the July-August 
issue of the bi-monthly periodical, Ha'ain HashviHt {The Seventh 
Eye), which is published by the Israeli Democracy Institute and is 
devoted to analyzing the Israeli press. Albaum discussed the 
structure of the Haredi press in Yediot Ahronot and then proceeded 
to a discussion in Ha'ain HashviHt of the Haredi attitude as a 
whole towards secular Israeli Jews. According to Albaum, the 
violent attacks in the Haredi press upon Aharon Barak, the president 
of the Israeli Supreme Court, attracted increased public attention. 
The Haredi press called Barak "the most dangerous enemy ever 
to face the Haredi public." Albaum pointed out that the earlier 
Haredi press attacks upon the left-wing kibbutzim, the Israeli army, 
the secular media and many other secular institutions and figures 
aroused little general interest. The attack upon the Supreme Court, 
long regarded as the holiest symbol of Israeli secular democracy, 
piqued the interest of many secular Jews. The violent Haredi press 
attacks upon Yitzhak Rabin, while he was prime minister, did not 
have the same effect. Shortly before Rabin's assassination an article 
in one of the most popular Haredi weekly publications, Ha'Shavua 
{The Week) predicted: 

The day will come when the Jews will bring Rabin and Peres to 
the defendant's bench in court with the only two alternatives being 
the noose or the insane asylum. This insane and evil pair have 
either gone mad or are obvious traitors. Rabin and Peres have 
guaranteed their place in the Jewish memory as evil Jews of the 
worst kind. They resemble the apostates or the Jews who served 
the Nazis. 



THE RISE OF THE HAREDIM IN ISRAEL 33 

Reiterating that secular Jewish interest in Israel heightened after 
the attack upon Barak and the Supreme Court, Albaum observed 
that increasing numbers of secular Israelis are insulted when they 
read in the Haredi press that their lives are garbage and their 
children are hallucinating, lifeless drug addicts. Albaum explained: 

Haredi journalists deliberately exaggerate all marginal phenomena 
in secular society. They describe all murders, cases of alcoholism 
and hard drug situations as characteristics of secular Jewish 
society. In addition, they allege as facts incorrect statements, 
engage in the wildest forms of slander and often use the most 
derogatory terminology. Their aim is to condemn absolutely 
the secular, Jewish lifestyle. 

It is difficult to avoid considering such depiction as analogous to 
the Nazi methodology. 

The structure of the Haredi press is significant. Albaum 
pinpointed as the main Haredi ideological trendsetter Yated Ne'ernan 
{Faithful Tent-Peg)> the official newspaper of the Degel Ha'Torah 
faction, headed and controlled by Rabbi Shach. Albaum explained 
that Yated Ne'eman is strictly monitored by a committee of five 
rabbis, all appointed by Rabbi Shach and headed by Rabbi Natan 
Zohavsky. At least one of the committee's rabbis is in the 
newspaper's office each evening except the Shabbat. Every word 
of every article, advertisement and announcement must be approved 
for publication by the rabbi(s) on duty. Certain words and 
expressions, such as aids or television, are not allowed to be printed. 
The term "Red Cross," supposedly associated with Christianity, 
is especially prohibited from usage. 

Yated Ne'eman articles often ferociously attack rival Haredi 
factions. One example is that all advertisements about social events 
of the Shas Party, which is despised by Rabbi Shach, are not 
allowed to be printed. The importance of this prohibition was 
highlighted when, after an apparent lull in the spiritual war between 
Rabbi Shach and Shas, one of the newspaper's editors dared to 
publish an advertisement announcing the bar-mitzvah of Aryeh 
Der'i's son. (Aryeh Der'i is a Member of the Knesset and an 
important Shas leader.) Upon learning of this, Rabbi Shach strongly 
reprimanded Rabbi Zochovsky, the head of the overseeing 
committee of rabbis. 

Spiritual censorship committees exist and monitor everything 
printed in other Haredi newspapers. Albaum asserted: "Freedom 
of the press is an unknown concept in the Haredi press." Haredi 
editors, according to Albaum, proclaim a different kind of freedom: 
"the right of our public not to know certain things." The censoring 
rabbis decide what the public should not know. 



34 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

In reflecting the general Haredi attitude towards secular Jews, 
Haredi press articles often present arguments reminiscent of anti- 
Semitic statements about all Jews. Albaum pointed to a February 
1996 article, for example, in which Israel Friedman reiterated the 
position that the land of Israel belongs only to the Haredim and 
that secular Jews and Palestinians should leave it. In addressing 
secular Jews, Friedman in his article stated: "Go away from here 
. . . We tell you this in a friendly manner. Go away. American crime 
will easily absorb the criminal secular youth who are all enchanted 
by alcohol, drugs and earrings. They are bloodsuckers who drink 
our blood. They dare to live on land that belongs to us." In another 
article Albaum quoted Nathan Ze'ev Grossman, the editor of 
Yated Ne'eman, as attributing the rise of neo-Nazism in European 
countries "to the influence of the Rabin government." Grossman 
described all kibbutzim as Nazi institutions and proposed "to put 
them on trial according to the precedent of the Nuremberg trials." 

The Haredim demand that other Jews should, at least in public 
and especially in regard to matters of symbolism, behave according 
to their dictates. Haredi demands, often supported by traditional- 
ist Jews, so frequently cause political scandals that they can be 
described as a staple of Israeli politics. More Israeli government 
crises have occurred because of religious scandals than for any other 
reasons. To further their political interests, the Haredim insist 
upon employing certain symbols. This insistence has played an 
important role in Israeli politics. Many Israeli Jews, together with 
a much greater number of diaspora Jews, in deference to what they 
believe is Jewish tradition and the commandments of Judaism, 
support Haredi demands to keep and display symbols of religious 
observance. Such support has produced scandal. One particularly 
illustrative scandal occurred in Autumn 1 992 and occupied Israeli 
politics for many months. During the time of this scandal, the Haredi 
Shas Party threatened to leave the Rabin government, not because 
of Rabin's plans to deal with the Palestinians nor because of 
possible concessions to the Syrians but rather because the then 
Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni, on a visit to Nazareth was 
photographed eating in a non-kosher, Arab restaurant and thus 
violating the religious symbol of the ritual purity of food. Only six 
months prior to the Aloni affair another scandal involving a Member 
of the Knesset had occurred; MK Yael Rayan was photographed 
on a Tel Aviv beach, dressed in a swimsuit and reading a book on 
Yom Kippur. All the religious political parties then protested 
furiously against what they termed this "profanation of Judaism." 
After hearing traditionally religious Labor Party Knesset members 
echo the same sentiments, Prime Minister Rabin, who was not tra- 
ditionally religious, reinforced the accusation. 



THE RISE OF THE HAREDIM IN ISRAEL 35 

During her tenure as minister of education, Shulamit Aloni 
made numerous statements that were viewed as being in opposition 
to symbols in Judaism and thus blasphemous; these statements 
resulted in scandals. One month before arousing scandal by eating 
in an Arab restaurant, for example, Aloni publicly acknowledged 
that the denial of the world's being created in six days was a tenable 
hypothesis. She also publicly struck the controversial, although 
hardly earth-shattering, position that the teaching of Judaism in the 
state's secular schools should be slightly changed. (She was content 
to leave as it is the teaching of Judaism in the state's religious 
schools.) Aloni caused even more furore when she publicly slighted 
some biblical figures. Ranny Talmor, a respected Israeli journalist, 
rightly observed in her October 14, 1992 article in the newspaper, 
Hadashot; 

[Aloni] scarcely escaped Galileo's fate after he persisted in 
maintaining that the earth moved around the sun. Some 
supposedly enlightened, secular Jews whispered to one another: 
"Of course she is right, but why does she need to say this in 
public?" The Jewish Grand Inquisitors were delighted in their 
realization that they had scored another victory against the weak- 
minded infidels. 

The Jewish Inquisitors harassed Aloni even more after Rabin forced 
her to apologize publicly in an open letter to Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph, 
the spiritual head of the Shas Party. Yoel Markus, a well-known 
Israeli journalist, reflected widely held opinion when he observed 
in his October 13, 1992 Haaretz article: 

As is well known, each concession in such matters only encourages 
the demand for more. This is why the abject surrender to Jewish 
religious demands by members of the Labor and Meretz Parties 
makes us wonder. Rabin has solemnly undertaken to check 
closely an intelligence report, submitted to him by the National 
Religious Party [NRP] , describing how Aloni violated the Sabbath 
and ate non-kosher food in Israel and abroad. The Chairman of 
the Labor Party faction in the Knesset [Elie Dayan] publicly 
rebuked Aloni and Member of the Knesset Yael Dayan. 

The NRP hired detectives to spy on ministers in order to discover 
what transgressions of Jewish religious commandments they 
committed. Such spying continued while the Rabin and Peres 
governments were in power. Rabin and Peres, while prime 
ministers, obtained all the findings of the detectives and continually 
attempted to keep their ministers from transgressing any religious 
laws in public. 



36 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

In his Haaretz article, Yoel Markus articulated many fears, 
shared by a sizeable segment of the Israeli Jewish public: 

We can also expect demands that each minister and member of 
the Knesset be accompanied by a kashrut inspector, who holds 
a full-time job for this purpose and that similar inspectors be 
appointed to insure that kashrut is observed in every 
neighborhood and on every street in Israel. A demand may also 
be made to establish vice squads, authorized to raid private 
homes in order to ascertain whether kashrut is being observed 
and whether, God forbid, a wife does not by chance have sex 
with her husband in the period of impurity during and after the 
time of menstruation [lasting eight to fourteen days.] 

Other Israeli journalists expressed similar fears and went further 
than did Markus in their published articles. Some attacked not only 
the religious but also the secular Jews who remained silent about 
the attacks upon them and their behavior and who would allow 
continual efforts by religious surveyors to brainwash systematically. 
Many Israeli Jews, whose opinions were represented by certain 
journalists, saw the activities and actual victories by religious 
factions as advancements towards a full-scale Jewish "Khomeinism" 
in Israel. 

The discussion of the Aloni scandal continued for weeks in the 
Israeli press and became increasingly political. Nahum Barnea 
wrote in his October 23, 1992 Yediot Ahronot article: 

Rabin encouraged the torrents of anti-Aloni propaganda by 
advancing the slogan "either Aloni or peace." What connection 
can there be between Aloni's dietary preferences and peace ... 
On four separate occasions Rabin summoned the leaders of 
Meretz [Aloni 's party] to his office in order to convey to them 
the complaints about Aloni made by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the 
spiritual head of the Shas Party. 

In his October 23, 1992 Davar article, Amir Oren censured Rabin 
for being subservient to Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph and for equating the 
rabbi's power to be equal to that of Stalin's in his time. Oren 
opined that the Shas Party had begun to fulfil in Israel a role 
analogous to that of the Shi'ites in Lebanon. In Oren's view Israel, 
"far from being the only democracy in the Middle East was imitating 
Lebanon and Iran, becoming in effect half a state of anarchy and 
half a theocracy." 

Amnon Abromovitz in his October 23, 1992 Maariv article put 
a somewhat different spin on the Aloni scandal. He wrote: "The 
vicious use of Aloni as a scapegoat by the religious Jews generated 



THE RISE OF THE HAREDIM IN ISRAEL 37 

public support for her. A repelling stench of religious zeal, funda- 
mentalism and sexism is emanating from the harassment of Aloni." 
Abromovitz blamed Rabin for encouraging this harassment, but 
he added that despite all her talk and non-kosher eating, Aloni had 
granted religious institutions, especially those of the Shas, more 
money than had any previous Minister of Education. Abramovitz 
concluded: "Aloni may talk blasphemously about God, but she has 
been foremost in generosity to those who believe in Him." 

The leaders of the Labor Party and their non-traditionalist 
sympathizers answered the above expressions of fear, especially after 
Oslo, by arguing that concessions to the demands of the Haredim 
were necessary to ensure backing for the peace process. This stock 
answer did not satisfy many secular Israelis. What Markus concluded 
represented broad secular opinion: 

The reason for Rabin's servility to Shas is supposed to be politics. 
Labor experts in skullduggery assure us that the Shas Party may 
leave the coalition if it finds it no longer able to withstand 
pressure from the other Haredi circles . . . The conclusion is that 
Labor must do its best to placate them . . . Politics is important, 
but freedom of conscience and everyone's right to follow one's 
creed are even more important. Jewish secularism is a creed. The 
crude hypocrisy, with which the ministers fake religious devotions, 
leads nowhere but only damages their government's integrity. 
If Shas wants to leave Rabin's coalition, it will do so by order of 
its rabbis. It will then not help if Rabin puts on an Haredi garb 
and/or if Aloni shaves her head to cover it with a coif. [The 
reference here is to a commandment of traditional Judaism that 
a woman, before marrying, has to shave her head and cover it 
with a coif. The Haredim attempt to enforce this rule strictly. 
Many Jewish, religious women cut only some of their hair and 
cover the remainder with wigs. Many secular, Jewish women are 
enraged by this rule.] 

By design, Haredi rabbis and politicians select secular women in 
politics as the primary targets of their attacks, even though they 
could pinpoint secular men as much, if not more, for transgres- 
sions of religious law. The Haredim repeatedly refer to Jewish 
women, engaged in politics, as witches, bitches or demons. Although 
a bit crude at times in the use of descriptive language, the Haredim 
approach mirrors to a great extent traditional Judaism's broadly 
based position regarding women. This position not only restricts 
the rights of women but in many ways holds women in contempt. 
Rule 8 in Chapter 3 of the Kitzur Shulhan Aruch (Abridgment of 
ShulhanAruch), an elementary textbook for Jews with little talmudic 
education, for example, dictates: "A male should not walk between 



38 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

two females or two dogs or two pigs. In the same manner the males 
should not allow a woman, dog or pig to walk between them." All 
Haredi boys between the ages of ten and twelve study and are 
required to observe this rule. (Few dogs and no pigs can be found 
in Haredi neighborhoods.) Traditional Judaism also prohibits 
women from playing even insignificant roles in politics and/or in 
any public activities in which they may appear to be leading males. 
Women are forbidden to drive buses or taxis; they can drive private 
cars only if no males apart from those in their own families or other 
women are passengers. These and many rules are followed in 
Haredi neighborhoods. In these neighborhoods women who are 
"dressed immodestly" are often insulted and/or assaulted. Many 
traditionally religious Jewish males in other than Haredi neigh- 
borhoods, who do not observe inconvenient religious 
commandments, take the lead of the Haredim in resenting and 
opposing participation of women in politics. These traditionally 
religious males regard such participation by women as a threat to 
their domination of their own families. 

The numerous misogynistic statements in the Talmud and in 
talmudic literature constitute a part of every Haredi male's sacred 
study. The statement in Tractate Shabat, page 152b, defining a 
woman is exemplary: "A woman is a sack full of excrement." The 
learned Talmudic Encyclopedia (volume 2, pages 255-7), written in 
modern Hebrew and thus understandable to all educated Israeli 
Jews, devotes a section to the "nature and behavior of women." In 
this section the proposition appears that the urge for the sexual act 
is greater among men than among women. The evidence presented 
for this is that men tend to hire women prostitutes because their 
urge for sex is greater than the urge of women. For that reason the 
Halacha punishes a wife who refuses to have sexual relations with 
her husband much more severely than it punishes a husband who 
refuses to have sexual relations with his wife. For the same reason 
a prospective husband is obliged to see his wife-to-be before 
marrying her but a prospective wife is not obligated to see her 
husband-to-be before marriage. After seeing his prospective bride, 
moreover, the prospective husband can send a messenger and 
conduct the marriage through the messenger. Jewish folklore 
contains stories describing the utilization of this procedure. 

The halachic prohibition of teaching talmudic literature and/or 
the Bible to women has been in the past and is currently still of 
great importance. Studying "Torah Sheba'al Pen" (the oral law) 
is for the Halacha a supremely important commandment. It is 
equivalent in importance to all the other commandments put 
together. (The law, according to belief, was given by God orally 
to Moses and was handed down orally for many centuries before 
being written.) This obligation, termed "Talmud Torah" or 



THE RISE OF THE HAREDIM IN ISRAEL 39 

"learning the Torah" is viewed as independent of time. Every 
pious male Jew is obligated to devote a portion of all days and nights, 
including holidays and working days, to this study. A basic talmudic 
rule frees women from positive obligations that are dependent on 
special times and obliges women only with positive obligations that 
are independent of time. Women, for example, are obliged to keep 
the Sabbath and the holidays that last more than twenty-four hours 
and are thus considered to be independent of time. Women, on 
the other hand, are not obliged to hear the shofar (ram's horn) blown 
on the New Year, which only takes a short time and is thus 
considered to be dependent on time. (There are a few exceptions 
to this rule.) A woman is permitted to fulfill what she is not obliged 
to do; hence she can choose to hear the ram's horn blown on the 
New Year. This rule underlines the women's religious inferiority 
to men, since another talmudic dictate is that a person who fulfills 
a commandment because he is obliged to do so is greater and 
receives a greater reward from God than a person who fulfills a 
commandment he is not obliged to fulfill. A Jewish woman that 
comes to the synagogue on the New Year and hears the ram's horn 
being blown, according to traditional Judaism, will receive a smaller 
reward from God than a male who does the same, because she is 
not obliged to hear whereas he is so obliged. Tractate Kiddushin (page 
34a) of the Talmud, however, ruled that women are not obliged 
to fulfill "Talmud Torah," even though it is an obligation 
independent of time. This ruling is part of Halacha. The rule was 
later amended to mean that women should learn only the special 
obligations that they must keep to the extent that they know what 
to do and what to avoid. The issue, therefore, arose: What parts 
of sacred studies are women permitted to learn or to be taught? 
The talmudic answer to this question, based upon many quotations, 
was given by Maimonides. In his work, Talmud Torah Laws 
(chapter 1, rule 13), Maimonides wrote: 

A woman who has studied Torah receives a reward [from God], 
but it is an inferior one when compared to man's reward. This 
is because she is not obligated [to do so], and everyone who does 
what he is not obliged to do gets an inferior reward compared 
to [the reward given to] one who does what he is commanded 
to do. The woman nevertheless receives some reward. The sages 
commanded a father not to teach his daughter Torah, because 
most woman never intend to learn anything and will, because 
of the weak understanding, convert the pronouncements of 
Torah into nonsense. The sages said: "Everyone who teaches his 
daughter Torah can be compared to one who teaches her insipid 
matters." This rule, however, applies only to talmudic studies. 



40 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

Although a woman should not be taught the Bible, she, if taught, 
would not have been taught insipid matters. 

A somewhat shortened version of this is given in the authoritative 
compendium of the Halacha, Shulhan Aruch (Yorah Dean, rule 246, 
paragraph 6). In modern times the Haredim have attempted to 
modify those rules to some extent. They have taught and still do 
teach girls the easier parts of the Talmud, in which arguments 
between the rabbis, that are considered to be dangerous for the 
"weak female mind", do not occur. Similarly, the Haredim have 
taught and do teach girls the Pentateuch but reserve the highest 
level and most serious commentaries for the boys. The Haredim 
maintain in their schools a strict separation of girls from boys and 
do not allow the girls to observe boys playing in the schoolyard. 

Many Israeli Jews, who in their youth received thorough talmudic 
educations, have later in their lives reacted antagonistically against 
Orthodox Judaism's depiction and treatment of women. Some of 
these Jews in reaction have written articles that are often published 
in the Israeli Hebrew press but are almost never translated into 
English. Kadid Leper, for example, a well-known Israeli journalist 
who as a youth studied in a yeshiva for years before becoming a 
secularist, wrote in his April 18, 1997 Hai'r article under the title 
"Woman is a sack full of excrement," the following: 

Beatings, sexual brutality, cruelty, deprival of rights, use of a 
woman as merely a sexual object; you can find all of this there 
[in the Talmud] . . . For two thousand years women had a well- 
defined place in the Jewish religion [Orthodox Judaism]; this place 
is different from what the rabbinical establishment describes; 
according to the Halacha, the place of women is in the garbage 
heap together with cattle and slaves. According to the Jewish 
religion [Orthodox Judaism] a man buys for himself a slave 
woman for her entire life simply by providing food and dress and 
granting to his wife the sexual act. 

This kind of published article, together with the many published 
reports of rabbinical harassment of women, have not only firmed 
polarization in Israeli Jewish society but have contributed signifi- 
cantly to the growing secular enmity towards Haredim. 

In many areas of Israeli Jewish society, the Haredim continue 
to maintain their separateness and at the same time assert that other 
Jews accept Haredi dicta. This is well illustrated by an example from 
the area of medicine. In his December 25, 1995 Yediot Ahronot 
article, Dov Albaum discussed the request submitted two weeks 
previously by the Haredim to the Israeli Ministry of Health: 



THE RISE OF THE HAREDIM IN ISRAEL 41 

Rabbi Yehoshua Sheinberger, the head of the Medicine by Law 
Organization, requested what seemed to be an innocent request 
that, as a concession to the religious Jews, personal blood 
donations be permitted. Previously, a person who donated a unit 
of blood for a patient undergoing surgery received a document 
entitling the recipient of the donation to one unit of blood from 
the general reserves of the Blood Bank. This new request, if 
accepted, would create a situation in which blood donors would 
be able to demand that hospitals or first aid stations give their 
blood donations only to specific recipients. 

Rabbi Sheinberger, supported by two other important rabbis, 
argued that Haredim usually refuse to donate blood but might 
change their attitude if this demand were accepted. Albaum in his 
article discussed the additional motivation behind this request: 

Beneath the surface there is a completely different problem that 
led to the rabbis' approaching the [Israeli] Ministry of Health. 
Haredi religious law authorities have in recent years dealt with 
the following issue: "Is it permissible for a pious Jew to receive 
a blood transfusion from non-Jews or from Jews who do not 
observe Jewish religious laws?" Haredi rabbis fear that, receiving 
"tainted," secular blood, or non-Jewish blood might cause a 
pious Jew to behave badly and even, heaven forbid, harm his 
observance of the Jewish religious laws. 

Several months before the above-mentioned request, Rabbi Ovadia 
Yoseph addressed this problem at length in his new book, Questions 
and Answers - Statements: "Blood that comes from forbidden [that 
is, non-kosher] foods may cause a negative effect upon its Jewish 
recipients. It may produce bad qualities, such as cruelty and/or 
boldness ... Therefore, a pious Jew, who does urgently need a 
transfusion and who faces no danger in waiting to receive blood 
from a strictly religious Jew, should wait." Rabbi Yoseph offered 
similar advice for those pious Jews needing organ transplants; he 
advised them only to accept such donations from other pious Jews. 
This dictate erupted into a serious dispute among rabbis in Israel 
and astonished many secular Jews. In another published article, 
Albaum reported that Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, a former chief rabbi 
of Israel, disagreed with Rabbi Yoseph and stated: "When a secular 
Jew is born, he is born with kosher blood and all the forbidden foods 
that he later eats are dissolved and made marginal in his blood." 
In regard to non-Jews, however, Rabbi Eliyahu mostly agreed with 
Rabbi Yoseph and held that religious Jews should attempt to avoid 
blood donations from them. Rabbi Eliyahu did not totally forbid 
blood donations for Jews from non-Jews. He stated: 



42 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

It is permitted at certain times that Jews receive blood, or in the 
case of sucklings mother's milk, from non-Jews, in spite of the 
fact that such blood is detrimental to their Jewish characteris- 
tics and spirit. This is because blood is transferred slowly and is 
made marginal in the cycling of Jewish blood in the body. 
Nevertheless, when possible, a Jew should avoid receiving such 
blood. 

Rabbi Sheinberger finally admitted that such rulings constituted 
the primary reason for his request: "The Haredi community has a 
problem in this area. For the Haredim blood from a Jew who eats 
only kosher food is preferable to blood from a Jew who does not 
observe dietary laws." Other Haredi rabbis agreed. Rabbi Levy 
Yitzhak Halperin, the head of the Scientific Religious Institute for 
Jewish Law Problems explained: "Blood donations from non-Jews 
or from Jews who eat forbidden foods are a problem. Jewish 
religious law holds that a Jewish child should preferably not be breast 
fed by a non-Jewish woman because her milk consists of forbidden 
food and contaminates the Jewish child." Such positions and 
statements antagonized secular Jews and met great opposition 
from the great majority of members of the Israeli medical profession. 

In 1994 Rabbi Sheinberger ignited another controversy and 
created scandal with a similar request. He met with senior physicians 
from the Israel Transplants Association and discussed with them 
the Jewish religious prohibition on organ donations. In Israel 
Haredi Jews refuse organ transplants from their and/or their relatives' 
corpses. On this issue the Haredi position influences many people 
for superstitious as well as religious reasons. Organ transplants in 
Israel are thus difficult to arrange. Surgeons frequently request 
Haredi rabbis to appeal to their followers to agree to organ 
transplants from corpses of their relatives in order to save lives. The 
surgeons' argument is based upon the Jewish religious law giving 
priority to saving Jewish lives. In his discussion Rabbi Sheinberger 
put the condition that only a Haredi rabbi could authorize such 
transplants. He explained: "Jewish religious law states that it is 
forbidden to transplant Jewish organs into either non-Jews or Jews 
who are not pious. It is obvious that it is prohibited under any cir- 
cumstances to transplant Jewish organs into Arabs, all of whom 
hate Jews." Rabbi Sheinberger, when asked for his definition of a 
Jew who is not pious, replied that a rabbi must determine the 
status of every Jew. Sheinberger's request caused a huge commotion 
and was rejected. 

Many non-Haredi rabbis allow an organ of a non-Jew to be 
transplanted into a body of a Jew in order to save the life of the 
Jew. They, however, oppose the transplant of an organ from a Jew 
into the body of a non-Jew. Some important rabbis go much further 



THE RISE OF THE HAREDIM IN ISRAEL 43 

in discussing and ruling about differences between Jews and non- 
Jews on medical matters. Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh, an influential 
member of the Habad movement and the head of a yeshiva near 
Nablus, for instance, opined in an April 26, 1996 Jewish Week article, 
reproduced in Haaretz that same day: "If every single cell in a Jewish 
body entails divinity, and is thus part of God, then every strand of 
DNA is a part of God. Therefore, something is special about 
Jewish DNA." Rabbi Ginsburgh drew two conclusions from this 
statement: "If a Jew needs a liver, can he take the liver of an 
innocent non-Jew to save him? The Torah would probably permit 
that. Jewish life has an infinite value. There is something more holy 
and unique about Jewish life than about non-Jewish life." It is 
noteworthy that Rabbi Ginsburgh is one of the authors of a book 
lauding Baruch Goldstein, the Patriarchs' Cave murderer. In that 
book Ginsburgh contributed a chapter in which he wrote that a 
Jew's killing non-Jews does not constitute murder according to the 
Jewish religion and that killing of innocent Arabs for reasons of 
revenge is a Jewish virtue. No influential Israeli rabbi has publicly 
opposed Ginsburgh's statements; most Israeli politicians have 
remained silent; some Israeli politicians have openly supported him. 
The Haredi demand to establish the Halacha as the law of the 
state of Israel has in recent years received increased support from 
the more pious members of the NRP. Briefly summarized, the 
specifics of this demand are: 

• God's political authority must be formally and juridically 
recognized. Ordained rabbis, God's certified agents, must be 
the decision makers. 

• Rabbis must oversee all social institutions, adjudicate all 
issues that arise, make final judgements about all social 
services and censor all printed, pictorial and sound matter. 

• Sabbath, other religious laws, physical separation of women 
from men in public places and "modesty" in female conduct 
and dress must be enforced by law. 

• Individuals must be obligated legally to report all noticed 
offenses of others to rabbinical authorities. 

The theocratic, totalitarian nature of the Haredi demand for the 
Halacha to be the binding law of the State of Israel is obvious. 



The Two Main Haredi Groups 



A brief consideration of the historical background should provide 
a basis for understanding the differences between the two major 
Haredi groups: the Ashkenazi and the Oriental, formerly called 
Sephardi. Throughout most of their history, Jews lived scattered 
in different countries. Not surprisingly, separate Jewish communities 
emerged, comprised of Jewish residents of a single country, of a 
cluster of countries or sometimes of different parts of a single 
country. Until about AD 1050 one particular community existed 
as a Jewish center, recognized by other communities as the authority 
for dictating rules and issuing instructions binding upon Jews 
throughout the world. The last such center was the Jewish 
community of Iraq. After the collapse of the last center in Iraq, the 
differences between Jewish communities deepened considerably. 
Different communities, for example, although keeping and using 
some of the ancient prayers common to all Jews, composed new 
prayers, used only in their own services. Even the chanting of 
prayers in different communities changed and thus varied. Religious 
rules of conduct in almost every conceivable area of life, to which 
pious Jews adhered, also changed to some extent and varied from 
one community to another. 

The Ashkenazi community that emerged in northern France and 
western Germany between the tenth and twelfth centuries became 
more innovative and began to deviate more from previously 
established patterns than any other community with the possible 
exceptions of small communities in remote countries, such as 
Georgia. The Ashkenazi divergences became embedded and 
persisted. Until this day, for example, most pious Ashkenazi Jews 
refuse to eat meat or any foods containing meat that are prepared 
under supervision of non-Ashkenazi rabbis; pious members of 
other Jewish communities are content with dietary supervision of 
rabbis not belonging to their community. Thus, a pious Sephardi 
Jew, visiting a pious Ashkenazi Jew will eat food prepared by the 
latter, but a pious Ashkenazi Jew visiting a Sephardi Jew will refuse 
to eat any foods containing meat or often any food whatsoever. 
Ashkenazi exclusiveness is evident in many other aspects of their 
religious conduct. Sephardi Jews, on the other hand, developed as 
early as the twelfth century an exclusiveness of their own, based 

44 



THE TWO MAIN HAREDI GROUPS 45 

upon the consideration that they were superior in some ways to 
other Jews. The Spanish and Portuguese Jews, a part of Sephardi 
Jewry, especially developed a pride in the supposed "purity of 
descent." (In Hebrew Sephardi means Spanish.) Most of them not 
only refused to marry but also often despised being together with 
Ashkenazi Jews. Moses Maimonides, who lived until 1204 and was 
both a rabbi and the greatest medieval Jewish philosopher, moralized 
in a testament addressed to his son: 

Guard your soul by not looking into books composed by 
Ashkenazi rabbis, who believe in the blessed Lord only when they 
eat beef seasoned with vinegar and garlic. They believe that the 
vapor of vinegar and the smoke of garlic will ascend to their 
nostrils and thus make them understand that the blessed Lord 
is near to them . . . You, my son, should stay only in the pleasant 
company of our Sephardi brothers, who are called the men of 
Andalusia [or southern Spain, then ruled by the Muslims] 
because only they have brains and are clever. 

Similar statements, in which members of a Jewish community 
express feelings of their superiority over other Jews, abound in Jewish 
literature and are common. Even as late as the 1960s older Sephardi 
rabbis and other Jewish men in Jerusalem, when signing their 
names, would invariably add the Hebrew initials meaning "pure 
Spanish." Ashkenazi exclusiveness, as it developed and deepened 
over centuries, however, became more all-encompassing and 
extreme than Sephardi exclusiveness. 

The developing exclusiveness had geographical, social and 
political causes. Prior to the formation of the Ashkenazi community, 
almost all Jews lived in the Mediterranean basin or in countries, 
such as Iraq, connected with the basin by trade routes. In the 
tenth century most Mediterranean countries were under either 
Muslim or Byzantine rule. The communications between this 
region and the emerging feudal Europe were tenuous largely 
because of the language barriers: Greek and Arabic, spoken on the 
one side, were largely unknown in Western Christian areas, while 
Latin was largely unknown in the Orient. Jews, who almost always 
spoke the language(s) of the people among whom they lived, 
encountered the same communication obstacle as did other people. 
The Ashkenazi community, therefore, framed its own life style 
without knowledge about or guidance from the older, Jewish 
communities. The Ashkenazi Jewish life style developed within the 
context of the emerging feudalism in Europe, which differed in many 
crucial respects from other regimes in other areas in that time 
period. In spreading eastward into the emerging states in central 



46 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

and eastern Europe, the Ashkenazi community solidified its 
cohesiveness and its identity: these have persisted to date but in 
more pronounced forms among religious rather than secular 
Ashkenazi Jews. 

Expelled from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1498, Sephardi 
Jews not only settled in but also transformed other Jewish 
communities. In these communities the new Sephardi immigrants 
tended to maintain an exclusiveness and to remain aloof from 
other Jews. Having come from the relatively developed society of 
the Spain of the Renaissance and having settled in less developed 
countries, they soon became the wealthiest, best educated and 
most politically connected Jews in Mediterranean countries. The 
Sephardi Jews that settled in Saloniki (now in Greece but then part 
of the Ottoman Empire) received privileges from the Ottoman 
Sultan, because they manufactured the best cloth and provided 
textiles for the uniforms worn by members of elite units of the 
Ottoman army. The Saloniki Sephardi Jews kept this monopoly for 
1 30 years, losing it only when more modern textiles were imported 
from England and the Netherlands. Spanish Jews mostly and 
Italian Jews to a lesser extent actually did most of the creative work 
in all areas of medieval Jewish culture. Largely because of their 
wealth and education, Sephardi Jews imposed their customs, 
language and name upon Jewish communities in all the countries 
to which they emigrated. One good illustration of this occurred in 
Jewish communities in the Balkans and what is now Turkey. The 
Jews in these communities called themselves "Romaniole," taken 
from the popular name of the Byzantine Empire "Romania." They 
spoke Greek until about 1550 at which time, influenced by the 
effects of the Sephardi immigration, began to call themselves 
"Sephardi" and to speak Ladino, an ancient form of Spanish. The 
fact is that no Sephardi communities existed other than those 
made up of the immigrants from the Iberian Peninsula, their 
descendents or those who assimilated themselves into Sephardi 
communities. European travelers and some Ashkenazi Jews have 
referred, and still refer, mistakenly to all non-Ashkenazi Jews as 
Sephardi. This is because the real Sephardi Jews established a 
lasting hegemony over other Jewish communities. Many other 
than Sephardi, non-Ashkenazi members of Jewish communities have 
more correctly defined themselves not only as Jews but also as Iraqis, 
Moroccans, Italians or another nationality. 

Until the end of the seventeenth century, Ashkenazi Jews 
constituted a small minority of world Jewry. Their cultural 
advancement trailed far behind other Jewish communities, especially 
the Sephardi and Italian. Since the eighteenth century, the 
populations of Mediterranean countries, especially those in the 
Ottoman Empire, steadily declined economically and demo- 



THE TWO MAIN HAREDI GROUPS 47 

graphically. This trend greatly affected Jewish communities of 
those countries. Between 1700 and 1850, Jewish populations in 
these countries steeply declined and became increasingly 
impoverished. The modest increase in Jewish population between 
1850 and 1914 did not to a significant extent offset the decline. 
From the beginning of the eighteenth century the political and tech- 
nological advancements in Europe affected the Ashkenazi 
community. From the mid-eighteenth century the Ashkenazi 
population began to increase rapidly; by 1 800 Ashkenazi Jews had 
become the majority of world Jewry; this increase and the majority 
percentage accelerated in the nineteenth century. Jews living in the 
European part of the Russian Empire, nearly all of them Ashkenazi, 
proliferated sevenfold between 1795 and 1914. Ashkenazi Jews 
developed a variety of innovations in Judaism, some of them 
secularist. By the first half of the twentieth century, Ashkenazi Jews 
had surpassed the relatively small, non-Ashkenazi minority in every 
major respect, including Talmudic studies. The current split 
between religious Ashkenazi Jews and non-Ashkenazi Jews stems 
from the fact that during the past two centuries, in contrast to what 
had previously been the case, almost all rabbis of distinction have 
been Ashkenazi. In non-Ashkenazi communities during this time 
period the quality of talmudic study, of books published and even 
of older books being reprinted has disastrously declined. 

Until 1948, Zionism and the emigration of Jews to Palestine were 
predominantly Ashkenazi inventions. Most religious Jews viewed 
Zionism as being in opposition to Judaism; hence, only Jews 
emancipated from their religious past could become Zionists. Even 
so, few Ashkenazi Jews immigrated to Palestine because of Zionist 
convictions. The great majority of those who immigrated did so 
only because their lives were so difficult in their own countries of 
origin. The great majority of Jews in Israel in 1 948 were those who 
had immigrated to Palestine after the increase in anti-Semitism in 
Europe after 1932 and especially after Hitler came to power in 
Germany. The number of non-Ashkenazi Jews in Israel at the time 
of the state's creation was relatively small. For most Jews in non- 
Ashkenazi communities, the religious influence, especially the 
messianic strain, was in the 1950s and early 1960s still potent. Living 
standards in Israel in the 1950s, although below those throughout 
Europe, were superior to those in most of the Arab Middle East. 
The Israeli government, therefore, could easily persuade Jews from 
many countries, for example, Morocco, Yemen and Bulgaria, to 
immigrate to Israel. The Israeli government induced Jewish 
immigration from Iraq by bribing the government of Iraq to strip 
most Iraqi Jews of their citizenship and to confiscate their property. 
By contrast, few Jews immigrated to Israel from the more advanced 
countries of the eastern Mediterranean, such as Greece or Egypt. 



48 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

The majority of the Israeli Jewish population shifted to the non- 
Ashkenazi. During the period from 1949 to 1965, Ashkenazi Jews 
in Israel declined to a minority that stabilized at about 40 per cent 
of Israel's population. The substantial immigration of Jews from 
the former Soviet Union thereafter increased the Ashkenazi 
population to about 55 per cent. By virtue of their having come 
from more advanced countries, the bulk of Ashkenazi Jews were 
relatively modern in outlook and secular. 

The non-Ashkenazi Jews, increasingly referred to as "Orientals" 
instead of "Sephardis," remained predominantly religious. Upon 
their arrival in Israel many Oriental Jews and their children were 
put through a cultural socialization directed by veteran Ashkenazi 
residents and advocated by members of the Zionist Labor Party 
then in power. This socialization included a considerable amount 
of coercive modernization and attempts to secularize the young. 
The results of this coercion were mixed during most of the first 
two decades of Israel's existence. The majority of Oriental Jews 
remained traditionalists, meaning that these people ignored the more 
exacting commandments of Judaism, such as the ban of Sabbath 
travel, but followed other commandments, especially those dealing 
with synagogue attendance. Even more importantly, it meant that 
they retained belief in the magical powers of rabbis and "holy 
men." To date, only a few Oriental politicians dare criticize a rabbi 
in public, even when the rabbi strongly opposes or curses them. 
Ashkenazi Jews of all political views in contrast criticize rabbis 
freely. Most Ashkenazi politicians despise any kowtowing to rabbis. 
Almost all Oriental politicians, including the Black Panthers of the 
early 1970s and the members of tiny Oriental peace movements, 
commonly bow to and kiss the hands of rabbis in public. 

The Ashkenazi religious minority, particularly its Haredi 
segment, has resisted secularization of Oriental Jews. They have 
succeeded to some extent, most particularly in persuading a 
minority to retain the strict observance of Judaism's 
commandments. They have established separate religious schools 
and yeshivot for the Orientals and have admitted, although in 
strictly controlled numbers, some of the most qualified Oriental 
youngsters to their own schools and yeshivas. After the passage 
of time, an Oriental Haredi elite group of rabbis and talmudic 
scholars emerged in Israel. Almost without exception, Ashkenazi 
Haredi rabbis trained members of this elite group. 

By the beginning of the 1990s, the confrontation between the 
unbending Haredi version of Ashkenazi exclusiveness and Oriental 
traditionalism, which previously was potentially explosive, erupted. 
The Ashkenazi Haredi movement insisted upon completely freezing 
the situation that existed in central and eastern Europe around 1860. 
The Oriental Jews, trained by Ashkenazi Haredi Jews, were forced 



THE TWO MAIN HAREDI GROUPS 49 

to discard their traditional garb, wear the black Ashkenazi clothing 
and learn and speak Yiddish. Yiddish was the language of oral 
instruction in the Haredi yeshivot; Hebrew was reserved for writing. 
The Oriental traditionalists were also forced to adopt the Ashkenazi 
manner of praying, which differed in numerous ways from their 
former method. Revered rabbis, who commanded authority and 
encountered almost no opposition, imposed those radical changes. 
By contrast, the various attempts by the Labor movement to impose 
modernizing constraints upon the Orientals in the 1950s sparked 
furious opposition among the Oriental masses, who would often 
criticize politicians but hardly ever criticize rabbis. 

The Oriental students in Ashkenazi Haredi yeshivot, after years 
of docile submission to demands and after being ordained as rabbis, 
were not granted status equal to that of their fellow students and 
rabbis. They have continued to accept and even today seem to be 
content with their inferior treatment. An excellent illustration of 
this is the inequality in intermarriage with their Ashkenazi peers. 
All Jewish communities share the time-honored custom that the 
head of the yeshiva arranges all marriages of yeshiva students. He 
carefully picks the daughters of rich and pious Jews as wives for 
students. The better students are matched with the daughters of 
the wealthiest parents. (The head of the yeshiva also matches 
daughters of rabbis with sons of the wealthiest parents.) Yeshiva 
students have selflessly complied with this matchmaking; resisting 
has been - and still is - considered to be a grave sin. This practice 
was instituted so that yeshiva students, who had no marketable skills, 
and their families would be supported. Students could continue 
their sacred studies, and the entire supporting family would 
supposedly then be able to enter paradise. More recently, yeshiva 
heads, when unable to find wealthy, prospective fathers-in-law for 
students, find prospective wives that are previously trained in 
skilled professions suitable for Haredi women and are willing to 
support husbands engaged in "sacred studies." (Such support will 
supposedly bring the wives to paradise.) By being matchmakers, 
yeshiva heads have most often been able to control the livelihoods 
and thus the lives of yeshiva students and their families. 

Ashkenazi Haredi Jews have never formally prohibited marriages 
with pious Jews from other communities. Such marriages, 
nevertheless, often have been - and still are - considered disgraces. 
Because of this, the heads of Ashkenazi Haredi yeshivot adopted 
the custom, still followed, of matching Oriental students, however 
distinguished in their studies, with either physically handicapped 
Ashkenazi brides or ones from poor families. 

Not surprisingly, an unwritten rule developed whereby Oriental 
students, however distinguished, would not be appointed to any 
responsible teaching positions even in lower-rank yeshivot, attended 



50 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

solely by Oriental students. These teaching jobs were reserved for 
Ashkenazi rabbis, the underlying assumption being that Oriental 
Jews were not yet sufficiently mature to hold responsible religious 
positions. When Rabbi Shach, one of the foremost Haredi leaders, 
explicitly reiterated this assumption shortly before the 1992 
elections, he was denounced as being racist by many Ashkenazi 
secular Jews; neither Oriental rabbis nor Oriental political activists 
uttered one word of public criticism. 

No Oriental initiative was responsible for the creation of the 
Haredi political party, Shas. Rabbi Shach formed Shas before the 
1988 elections, because he, in his rivalry with other prominent 
Ashkenazi Haredi rabbis, needed to have Knesset members that 
would be subservient only to him. He, therefore, ordered those 
rabbis that were his students and retained personal allegiance to 
him to form two new, separate, Haredi political parties: Degel 
Ha'Tora (Banner of the Law) would be purely Ashkenazi; Shas (an 
acronym for Sephardi List for Tradition) would be purely Oriental. 
After the formation of both parties, the party leaders publicly 
regarded Rabbi Shach as their highest spiritual authority and vowed 
to obey him unconditionally. In order to make Shas also attractive 
to non-Haredi Orientals, Shach handpicked a non-Haredi Oriental 
rabbi upon whom he could rely - Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph, the former 
chief rabbi of Israel - to act as the nominal party head. Shach, of 
course, retained authority. For Shach, Yoseph's greatest virtue 
was that, after failing to win re-election as chief rabbi due to the 
NRP's refusal to exert influence on his behalf, Yoseph hated the 
NRP as fiercely as did Shach himself. As is well known in Israel, 
hatred between secular Jews cannot match in intensity the mutual 
hatred between diverse groups of religious Jews, especially in the 
quarrels between rabbis representing those diverse groups. Shach 
had good reason to expect that, because of his wish to retaliate 
against NRP rabbis, Yoseph would remain loyal to him and be 
content with his subordinate role. 

For a while everything worked as Shach had planned. The two 
parties, controlled by Shach, obtained eight Knesset seats altogether 
in the 1988 elections; Degal Ha'Tora had two seats; Shas, six 
seats. The Haredi party, Agudat Israel, against which Shach formed 
his parties, obtained only five seats. Degel Ha'Tora and Shas 
preferred a Likud government and after the 1988 elections 
supported Yitzhak Shamir as the prime minister. Their support may 
have been decisive. After 1990 Shamir would not have had a 
Knesset majority without their support. The self-demeaning 
attempts by the Labor Party leader, Shimon Peres, to reverse this 
situation failed. Peres spent months attending lessons of Talmud, 
given in his home by Rabbi Yoseph. Peres attempted unsuccess- 
fully to be received by Rabbi Shach; Shach received many petty 



THE TWO MAIN HAREDI GROUPS 51 

secular politicians but not Peres. Peres made repeated, public pro- 
nouncements about how deeply he respected Judaism in general 
and the Haredi rabbis in particular. Everything Peres attempted 
was in vain. Shach and his rival Haredi rabbis did not bend in their 
support for Shamir. Yitzhak Rabin's victory over Peres for the 
leadership position in the Labor Party primaries preceding the 
1992 elections was largely due to Labor's rank-and-file disillu- 
sionment with Peres' attempts to ingratiate himself with Haredi Jews 
and to win their support. In spite of this experience, Peres repeated 
the same attempts that resulted in the same results in the 1996 
elections. 

The Haredi parties wielded political power after 1988, most 
especially in the 1988-90 period. Peres, still in the government after 
1988, supported their demands; Shamir, while Prime Minister, was 
even more resolute with support. Haredi political success can best 
be measured by the amounts of money the two Haredi parties were 
able to obtain from the state through so-called "special money" 
grants, not subject to fiscal controls of the state. These special money 
grants were made through a voluntary association, formed to 
remain under the real control of a Haredi Knesset member or his 
friends. The ministry of finance made grants from the state budget 
to such associations, most often on the basis of flimsy purpose 
statements and with no control exerted over expenditures. The 
resultant corruption was enormous, reaching a scale unprece- 
dented in the entire history of the State of Israel and finally causing 
the withdrawal of such special money grants. 

The extensive corruption involved in the obtaining of this special 
money did not necessarily mean that the money itself was used 
illicitly. Shas spent most of this money to establish a network of 
institutions designed to exert a lasting influence and to train cohorts 
of militants that in the future could enable the party to maximize 
its control over its public. This network consisted of a chain of 
educational institutions designed to revive traditional Jewish 
education for boys with only sacred and not secular subjects taught. 
(Shas largely ignored the education of girls.) Adult males between 
the ages of 40 and 50 were encouraged to leave their professions 
or give up their businesses in order to enroll in institutions and study 
sacred subjects with guaranteed remuneration. The remuneration, 
that is, salaries for studying, were admittedly low, but numerous 
individuals considered the life of study preferable to their persisting 
to do menial work or to maintain decaying businesses. The recruits 
did more than study Talmud. They were required to do political 
work for Shas. These recruits soon constituted Shas' political 
cadre, which has been and remains instrumental in turning Haredi 
neighborhoods into electoral constituencies under almost any 
conceivable circumstances. 



52 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

Informed Israeli political commentators have recognized the 
public and political impact of such Haredi political activity. In his 
June 26, 1992 article in Al-Hamishmar, Professor Gideon Doron, 
Rabin's major advisor on strategy during the 1992 elections, 
explained after Rabin's victory why the Labor Party refrained from 
canvassing votes in Shas-dominated neighborhoods: 

This is a party that keeps its public under continuous influence 
during election and other times ... Shas' method is to turn 
electoral outcomes into sources of monetary revenues and spend 
the money obtained during the four years [between one election 
and another]. The method succeeds. True, they also use magic 
spells, amulets and vows that greatly influence their public, but 
their role is secondary. 

According to Doron, the best way to appeal to the Shas constituency 
is to do so through those of the salaried elite whose role anyway is 
to keep the constituency under control. Doron pointed out that, 
with the exception of the previously mentioned elite, Shas' followers 
are essentially the same as the "Oriental tradition-minded segment 
of Likud supporters." By acquiring political power, Shas leaders, 
particularly Rabbi Yoseph, gained self-confidence and began to seek 
emancipation from the tutelage of Ashkenazi Haredi rabbis. In each 
Shas-dominated neighborhood, Rabbi Yoseph rather than Rabbi 
Shach was acclaimed to be the greatest rabbi in the world. After 
some years of continual adulation by the masses, Rabbi Yoseph 
almost certainly came to believe that he no longer needed to be 
subordinate to Rabbi Shach. 

The split between Shas and Rabbi Shach came after the 1992 
elections and was sparked by a triviality. The split in reality was 
over the rival claims by Shach and Yoseph to be regarded as the 
spiritual head of Shas. Rabin, when forming his coalition, 
approached and accepted the demands of Shas. Before signing an 
agreement, Shas asked Rabbi Shach for approval. Shach refused, 
because, as discussed in another chapter, Shulamit Aloni was to 
be named Minister of Education. Shach's newspaper, Yated 
Ne'eman, editorialized that this appointment was worse than the 
killing of one million children during the Holocaust. The reasoning 
employed here was that the Nazis killed the children but did not 
prevent their souls from going to paradise, whereas the appointment 
of Aloni could corrupt Jewish souls and deprive them of paradise. 
Rabbi Yoseph and the Shas Party, nevertheless, decided to risk the 
souls of Jewish children and joined Rabin's government. Rabbi 
Shach and his followers reacted negatively in a furious manner that 
persisted thereafter. 



THE TWO MAIN HAREDI GROUPS 53 

The confrontation between the two Haredi movements has been 
waged in the magical area over the contest of spiritual authority. 
In keeping with commonly held and magical Haredi beliefs, the 
Shas leaders' sin of resisting Rabbi Shach's will could be punished 
by a few curses resulting in either the deaths or sicknesses of those 
leaders and/or their family members. The result would allegedly 
restore heavenly equilibrium. In order to further this magical result, 
Rabbi Shach's supporters resorted to conduct previously employed 
in similar situations. They published fake announcements of deaths, 
hospitalizations and/or traffic accidents of Shas leaders and then 
either notified the families accordingly by telephone or sent 
ambulances to their homes. As noted above, internecine hatred 
between religious Jews, and especially between Haredi rabbis, is 
often virulent. The existence of such hatred has continually resulted 
in disunity within ranks that limits Haredi political power. The 
methods of internecine infighting have been so customarily 
employed within Haredi culture that, unfortunately for Rabbi 
Shach's followers, the impact is severely limited. In the domain of 
magic, moreover, Shas has on its side the great authority and 
renowned miracle worker, Rabbi Kaduri, who announced that he 
would shield all Shas leaders by casting cabbalistic spells. Rabbi 
Kaduri also claimed that God revealed to him that harassment by 
other Haredi Jews would qualify Shas leaders for the greatest 
Jewish virtue, sanctification of the Lord's name through martyrdom. 

In the contest of spiritual authorities, debate ensued over whether 
Rabbi Yoseph 5 s spirituality was sufficiently great to validate his 
challenge to Shach's rabbinical authority, especially in light of 
Yoseph's former allegiance to Shach. Following the debate all the 
Shas rabbis decided to obey Rabbi Yoseph. Shas rabbis and 
followers then began to extol Rabbi Yoseph as "the greatest rabbi 
of his generation," greater even than any Ashkenazi rabbi. This 
honor had previously been awarded to Rabbi Shach. Shas had won 
its independence. The Ashkenazi Haredi Jews thus could not defeat 
but did sever all connections with Shas. No Ashkenazi rabbi 
distanced himself from Shach's pronouncements; some added 
even more venom. The leader of the largest Hassidic sect, the Gur 
Hassids, reiterated his previously expressed view that Israel lost the 
Yom Kippur War (of October 1973) because a woman, Golda Meir, 
was prime minister. He implied that Israel would lose its next war 
because of Shulamit Aloni. Ashkenazi rabbis and their followers 
used weapons more hurtful than their curses and pronouncements. 
They desecrated Shas synagogues, usually just before the beginning 
of the Sabbath, thus making it difficult to clean in time without 
desecrating the Sabbath. Many Shas leaders, who had been educated 
in Ashkenazi institutions and who continued to pray in Ashkenazi 
synagogues, were harassed or beaten during the reciting of prayers. 



54 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

One Shas leader, Rabbi Pinhassi, was spat upon and beaten in an 
Ashkenazi synagogue in the Haredi town of Bnei Brak during a 
Sabbath prayer session. Some children of Shas leaders were terribly 
abused. The then Minister of the Interior, Yitzhak Der'i, had to 
remove his sons from an Ashkenazi yeshiva after they were publicly 
humiliated. Der'i was repeatedly harassed, often when attempting 
to pray in synagogues, by Shach's followers and by religious settlers. 
Shas followers fought back. On several occasions they beat up 
those who had harassed Der'i; they also desecrated Ashkenazi 
synagogues in retaliation. Shas retaliations ultimately served their 
opponent's cause by escalating the conflict. 

The split and conflict within Haredi ranks illustrate the religious 
transformation of Oriental Jews. For over two decades many secular 
Oriental groups were founded; they all failed to obtain the support 
of the populations they claimed to represent and, as a result, 
collapsed ignominiously. Their failure can be attributed to their 
obstinate refusal to recognize that the Oriental Jewish communities 
define themselves primarily in religious terms. The Haredi Shas 
Party will in the foreseeable future likely remain the sole Oriental 
political party in Israel. This particular case study may help illustrate 
the nature of religious transformation of a not fully modernized 
population. 



The National Religious Party and the 
Religious Settlers 



The ideology of the NRP and Gush Emunim, the group of religious 
settlers in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, is more 
innovative than the ideology of Haredi Jews. Rabbi Abraham 
Yitzhak Kook, who was the chief rabbi of Palestine and a most 
prominent rabbinical supporter of Zionism, devised this ideology 
in the early 1 920s and developed it thereafter. Rabbi Kook the elder, 
as he was called, was a prolific author. His followers considered 
him to be divinely inspired. After his death in 1935 he achieved 
the status of a saint in NRP circles. His son and successor as NRP 
leader, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook the younger, who died in 1981 
at the age of 91, also achieved saintly status. Rabbi Kook the 
younger wrote no books and did not achieve the talmudic 
competency of his father, but he possessed a strongly charismatic 
personality and exerted great influence upon his students. He 
elaborated orally the political and social consequences of his father's 
teachings. The rabbis who graduated from his yeshiva in Jerusalem, 
Merkaz Harav, or Center of the Rabbi, and remained devoted 
followers of his teaching established a Jewish sect with a well- 
defined political plan. In early 1974, almost immediately after the 
shock of the October 1973 war and a short time before the cease- 
fire agreement with Syria was signed, Rabbi Kook's followers with 
their leader's blessing and spiritual guidance founded Gush Emunim 
(Block of the Faithful). The Gush Emunim aims were to initiate 
new and to expand already existent Jewish settlements in the 
Occupied Territories. With the help of Shimon Peres, who in the 
summer of 1974 became the Israeli defense minister and thus the 
person in charge of the Occupied Territories, Gush Emunim in the 
remarkably short time of a few years succeeded in changing Israeli 
settlement policy. The Jewish settlements, which continue to spread 
throughout the West Bank and to occupy a large chunk of the Gaza 
Strip, provide testimony of and documentation for Gush Emunim's 
influence within Israeli society and upon Israeli governmental 
policies. 

Gush Emunim's success in changing Israeli settlement policy in 
the 1970s is politically explicable. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan 

55 



56 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

determined Israeli settlement policy from the end of the 1967 war 
until 1974. He did not allow the establishment of Jewish settlements 
in the bulk of the territories. The only exception he made was to 
allow a tiny group of Jewish settlers to live near Hebron. Dayan 
wanted to envelop the densely inhabited parts of these areas by 
creating a settlement zone in the almost uninhabited Jordan Valley 
and northern Sinai (the Yamit area). In order to preserve the Israeli 
alliance with the feudal notables who were in firm control of the 
villages (although not of the larger towns), Dayan promised not to 
confiscate village lands; he mostly kept his promise. Gush Emunim 
demonstrated its strength by organizing enormous demonstrations 
in 1974 and 1975 opposing the Dayan promise. These demon- 
strations were also directed against United States Secretary of 
State Henry Kissinger for backing the Dayan policy. Peres, who 
became defense minister after Dayan in 1974 in the first Rabin 
government (1974-77), initiated a new policy which he called 
"functional compromise" and for which he acquired Gush Emunim 
support. According to this policy all the land inside the West Bank 
and the Gaza Strip that was not being used by the inhabitants could 
be confiscated for the exclusive use of the Jews. Palestinian political 
leaders who accepted this new policy arrangement would be offered 
absolute rule over Palestinians. The government of the State of Israel 
would control only certain essential functions in Palestinian areas. 

Prime Minister Rabin at first opposed this policy. In 1975, Peres 
conspired with Gush Emunim and planned strategy to combat 
Rabin's opposition. Gush Emunim organized a mass rally in 
Sebastia, a disused railway station near Nablus. Rabin forbade the 
demonstration, but Gush Emunim demonstrators succeeded in cir- 
cumventing the army roadblocks and assembled in Sebastia. During 
the period of the ensuing lengthy negotiations Peres lent some 
support to Gush Emunim. More demonstrators arrived on the 
scene. Finally, a compromise settlement that favored Gush Emunim 
was reached. Gush Emunim members were allowed to settle in what 
is now the flourishing settlement of Kedumim. Operating in much 
the same manner, Gush Emunim in 1976 with the help of Peres 
founded the settlement Ofra as a temporary work camp and the 
settlement Shilo as a temporary archaeological camp. Gush Emunim 
also pursued similar policies and initiated settlement beginnings 
in the Gaza Strip. The Gush Emunim settlements, agreed to by 
Peres in 1975 and 1976, still exist and are flourishing. Following 
the 1977 election of Menachem Begin as prime minister, a "holy 
alliance" of the religious Gush Emunim and successive secular Israeli 
governments occurred and has remained in place to date. 

Having achieved settlement policy successes, Gush Emunim 
rabbis cleverly conducted a number of political intrigues and were 
able to achieve domination of the NRP. From the mid-1980s the 



THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY 57 

NRP has followed the ideological lead of Gush Emunim. After the 
death of Rabbi Kook the younger, the spiritual leadership of Gush 
Emunim became centered in a semi-secret rabbinical council, 
selected by mysterious criteria from among the most outstanding 
disciples of Rabbi Kook. These rabbis have continued to make policy 
decisions based upon their belief in certain innovative elements of 
ideology not openly advocated or detailed but derived from their 
distinct interpretation of Jewish mysticism, popularly known as 
Cabbala. The writings of Rabbi Kook the elder serve as the sacred 
texts and are perhaps intentionally even more obscure than other 
cabbalistic writings. In-depth knowledge of talmudic and cabbalistic 
literature, including modern interpretations of both, and special 
training are prerequisites for understanding Kook's writings. The 
implications of Kook's writings are theologically too innovative to 
allow for a popularized presentation to an otherwise educated 
Jewish public. This is probably the reason why so few analyses of 
the Gush Emunim ideology have appeared. The one significant and 
learned analysis is an essay by Professor Uriel Tal, published 
originally in Hebrew in Haaretz on September 26, 1984, and 
published in English in The Jerusalem Quarterly (No. 35, Spring 
1985) under the title: "Foundations of a Political Messianic Trend 
in Israel." The Tal essay, although marred to some extent by 
sociological jargon and by some analogies not well adapted to its 
theme, is the most valuable analysis to uate. Several relatively good 
studies in Hebrew of the more mundane aspects of Gush Emunim 
have appeared as books. The one study in English is Ian Lustick's 
book, For the Land and the Lord: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel 
( 1 988) . The initiative for the Lustick book was apparently connected 
to Lustick's personal reaction to the Jonathan Pollard espionage 
affair 1 and began as a paper written for the United States 
Department of Defense. This may explain the book's excessive con- 
centration on the changing political stances of Gush Emunim and 
its relative neglect of important parts of ideology. Contrary to what 
the title suggests, the book contains little description or explanation 
of Jewish fundamentalism. To some extent, moreover, this book 
is apologetic; the more extreme aspects of Gush Emunim dogmas 
and beliefs are not accurately revealed. Some of what is missing in 
the Lustick book can fortunately be found in the chapter titled 
"Nationalistic Judaism," in Yehoshafat Harkabi's book, Israel's 
Fateful Hour (1988). The ensuing discussion of Gush Emunim ideas 
and politics will take cognizance of the Lustick and Harkabi analyses 
but will rely more upon Tal's study and other Hebrew writings. 

The status of non-Jews in the Cabbala as compared to that in 
talmudic literature is a good beginning point for discussion. Most 
of the many Jewish authors that have written about the Cabbala 
in English, German and French have either avoided this subject 



58 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

or have hidden its essence under clouds of misleading generaliza- 
tions. These authors, Gershon Scholem being one of the most 
significant, have employed the trick of using words such as "men," 
"human beings" and "cosmic" in order to imply incorrectly that 
the Cabbala presents a path leading towards salvation for all human 
beings. The actual fact is that cabbalistic texts, as opposed to 
talmudic literature, emphasize salvation for only Jews. Many books 
dealing with the Cabbala that are written in Hebrew, other than 
those written by Scholem, present an honest description of salvation 
and other sensitive Jewish issues. This point is well illustrated in 
studies of the latest and most influential school of Cabbala, the 
Lurianic School, founded in the late sixteenth century and named 
after its founding rabbi, Yitzhak Luria. The ideas of Rabbi Luria 
greatly influenced the theology of Rabbi Kook the elder and still 
underlie the ideologies of Gush Emunim and Hassidism. Yesaiah 
Tishbi, an authority on the Cabbala who wrote in Hebrew, 
explained in his scholarly work, The Theory of Evil and the (Satanic) 
Sphere in Lurianic Cabbala (1942, reprinted in 1982): "It is plain 
that those prospects and the scheme [of salvation] are intended only 
for Jews." Tishbi cited Rabbi Hayim Vital, the chief interpreter of 
Rabbi Luria, who wrote in his book, Gates of Holiness: "The 
Emanating Power, blessed be his name, wanted there to be some 
people on this low earth that would embody the four divine 
emanations. These people are the Jews, chosen to join together the 
four divine worlds here below." Tishbi further cited Vital's writings 
in emphasizing the Lurianic doctrine that non-Jews have satanic 
souls: "Souls of non-Jews come entirely from the female part of 
the satanic sphere. For this reason souls of non-Jews are called evil, 
not good, and are created without [divine] knowledge." In his 
illuminating Hebrew-language book, Rabbinate y Hassidism, 
Enlightenment: The History of Jewish Culture Between the End of the 
Sixteenth and the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century (1956), Ben- 
Zion Katz explained convincingly that the above doctrines became 
part of Hassidism. Accurate descriptions of Lurianic doctrines 
and their wide influence upon religious Jews can be found in 
numerous other studies, written in Hebrew. In books and articles 
written in other languages, and thus read by most interested non- 
Israeli Jews and non-Jews, such descriptions and analyses are most 
often absent. The role of Satan, whose earthly embodiment 
according to the Cabbala is every non-Jew, has been minimized 
or not mentioned by authors who have not written about the 
Cabbala in Hebrew. Such authors, therefore, have not conveyed 
to readers accurate accounts of general NRP or its hard-core, 
Gush Emunim politics. 

A modern and influential expression of the attitudes derived above 
is evident in the teachings and writings of the late "Lubovitcher 



THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY 59 

Rebbe," Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who headed the 
Chabad movement and wielded great influence among many 
religious Jews in Israel as well as in the United States. Schneerson 
and his Lubovitch followers are Haredim; nevertheless, they 
involved themselves in Israel's political life and shared many 
concepts with Gush Emunim and the NRP. The ideas of Rabbi 
Schneerson that appear below are taken from a book of his recorded 
messages to followers in Israel, tided Gatherings of Conversations and 
published in the Holy Land in 1965. During the subsequent three 
decades of his life until his death, Rabbi Schneerson remained 
consistent; he did not change any of the opinions. What Rabbi 
Scheerson taught either was or immediately became official, 
Lubovitch, Hassidic belief. 

Regarding the non-Jew the Lubovitcher Rebbe's views were 
clear even if a bit disorderly: "In such a manner the Halacha, 
stipulated by the Talmud, showed that a non-Jew should be 
punished by death if he kills an embryo, even if the embryo is non- 
Jewish, while the Jew should not be, even if the embryo is Jewish. 
As we [the talmudic sages] learn from Exodus 22:21, beginning 
with the words 'and if any mischief will follow.'" This quoted 
verse is a part of a passage beginning in verse 21, describing what 
should be done "if men strive and hurt a woman with child," thus 
damaging the embryo. Verse 22, whose beginning is quoted by the 
Lubovitcher Rebbe, says in full: "And if any mischief will follow, 
then you shall give soul for soul." (Some English translations use 
the wording "life for life" instead of "soul for soul.") The above 
stated difference in the punishment of a Jew and a non-Jew for the 
same crime is common in the Talmud and Halacha. 

The Lubovitcher Rebbe continued: 

The difference between a Jewish and a non-Jewish person stems 
from the common expression: "Let us differentiate." Thus, we 
do not have a case of profound change in which a person is merely 
on a superior level. Rather, we have a case of "let us differenti- 
ate" between totally different species. This is what needs to be 
said about the body: the body of a Jewish person is of a totally 
different quality from the body of [members] of all nations of 
the world ... The Old Rabbi [a pseudonym for one of the holy 
Lubovitch rabbis] explained that the passage in Chapter 49 of 
Hatanya [the basic book of Chabad] : "And you have chosen us" 
[the Jews] means specifically that the Jewish body was chosen 
[by God], because a choice is thus made between outwardly 
similar things. The Jewish body "looks as if it were in substance 
similar to bodies of non-Jews," but the meaning ... is that the 
bodies only seem to be similar in material substance, outward 
look and superficial quality. The difference of the inner quality, 



60 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

however, is so great that the bodies should be considered as 
completely different species. This is the reason why the Talmud 
states that there is an halachic difference in attitude about the 
bodies of non-Jews [as opposed to the bodies of Jews]" "their 
bodies are in vain." ... An even greater difference exists in regard 
to the soul. Two contrary types of soul exist, a non-Jewish soul 
comes from three satanic spheres, while the Jewish soul stems 
from holiness. 

As has been explained, an embryo is called a human being, 
because it has both body and soul. Thus, the difference between 
a Jewish and a non-Jewish embryo can be understood. There is 
also a difference in bodies. The body of a Jewish embryo is on 
a higher level than is the body of a non-Jew. This is expressed 
in the phrase "let us differentiate" about the body of a non-Jew, 
which is a totally different kind. The same difference exists in 
regard to the soul: the soul of a Jewish embryo is different than 
the soul of a non-Jewish embryo. We therefore ask: Why should 
a non-Jew be punished if he kills even a non-Jewish embryo while 
a Jew should not be punished even if he kills a Jewish embryo? 
The answer can be understood by [considering] the general 
difference between Jews and non-Jews: A Jew was not created 
as a means for some [other] purpose; he himself is the purpose, 
since the substance of all [divine] emanations was created only 
to serve the Jews. "In the beginning God created the heavens 
and the earth" [Genesis 1:1] means that [the heavens and the 
earth] were created for the sake of the Jews, who are called the 
"beginning." This means everything, all developments, all 
discoveries, the creation, including the "heavens and the earth 
- are vanity compared to the Jews. The important things are the 
Jews, because they do not exist for any [other] aim; they 
themselves are [the divine] aim." 

After some additional cabbalistic explanation the Lubovitcher 
Rebbe concluded: 

Following from what has already been said, it can be understood 
why a non-Jew should be punished by death if he kills an embryo 
and why a Jew should not be punished by death. The difference 
between the embryo and a [baby that was] born is that the 
embryo is not a self-contained reality but rather is subsidiary; 
either it is subsidiary to its mother or to the reality created after 
birth when the [divine] purpose of its creation is then fulfilled. 
In its present state the purpose is still absent. A non-Jew's entire 
reality is only vanity. It is written, "And the strangers shall stand 
and feed your flocks" [Isaiah 61:5]. The entire creation [of a non- 
Jew] exists only for the sake of the Jews. Because of this a non-Jew 



THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY 61 

should be punished with death if he kills an embryo, while a Jew, 
whose existence is most important, should not be punished with 
death because of something subsidiary. We should not destroy 
an important thing for the sake of something subsidiary. It is true 
that there is a prohibition against [hurting] an embryo, because 
it is something that will be born in the future and in a hidden 
form already exists. The death penalty should be implicated 
only when visible matters are affected; as previously noted, the 
embryo is merely of subsidiary importance. 

Comments concerning and partial summaries of the above opinions 
have appeared, but with insufficient emphasis in the Israeli Hebrew 
press. In 1965, when the above was published, the Lubovitcher 
Rebbe was allied in Israel to the Labor Party; his movement had 
already acquired many important benefits from the government then 
in power as well as previous Israeli governments. The Lubovitchers, 
for example, had obtained autonomy for their own education 
system within the context of religious state education. In the mid- 
1970s the Lubovitcher Rebbe decided that the Labor Party was 
too moderate and thereafter shifted his movement's political support 
sometimes to Likud and sometimes to a religious party. Ariel 
Sharon was the Rebbe's favorite Israeli senior politician. Sharon 
in turn praised the Rebbe publicly and delivered a moving speech 
about him in the Knesset after the Rebbe's death. From the June 
1967 war until his death the Lubovitcher Rebbe always supported 
Israeli wars and opposed any retreat. In 1974 he strongly opposed 
the Israeli withdrawal from the Suez area, conquered in the October 
1973 war; he promised Israel divine favors if it persisted in occupying 
that land. After his death thousands of his Israeli followers, who 
continued to hold the views expressed in the above quoted passage, 
played an important role in Netanyahu's election victory by demon- 
strating at many cross-road junctions before election day; they 
chanted the slogan: "Netanyahu is good for the Jews." Although 
subsequently strongly criticizing Netanyahu for meeting with 
Arafat, signing the Hebron agreement and agreeing to a second 
withdrawal, the Rebbe's followers continued their overall preference 
for the Netanyahu government. 

Among the religious settlers in the Occupied Territories the 
Chabad Hassids constitute one of the most extreme groups. Baruch 
Goldstein, the mass murderer of Palestinians, was one of them 
(Goldstein will be discussed in Chapter 6.) Rabbi Yitzhak 
Ginsburgh, who wrote a chapter of a book in praise of Goldstein 
and what he did, is another member of their group. Ginsburgh is 
the former head of the Yoseph Tomb Yeshiva, located on the 
outskirts of Nablus. Rabbi Ginsburgh, who originally came to 
Israel from the United States and has good connection to the 



62 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

Lubovitcher community in the United States, has often expressed 
his views in English in American Jewish publications. The following 
appeared in an April 26,1 996 Jewish Week (New York) article that 
contained an interview with Rabbi Ginsburgh: 

Regarded as one of the Lubovitcher sect's leading authorities on 
Jewish mysticism, the St. Louis born rabbi, who also has a 
graduate degree in mathematics, speaks freely of Jews' genetic- 
based, spiritual superiority over non-Jews. It is a superiority that 
he asserts invests Jewish life with greater value in the eyes of the 
Torah. "If you saw two people drowning, a Jew and a non-Jew, 
the Torah says you save the Jewish life first," Rabbi Ginsburgh 
told the Jewish Week "If every simple cell in a Jewish body entails 
divinity, is a part of God, then every strand of DNA is part of 
God. Therefore, something is special about Jewish DNA." Later, 
Rabbi Ginsburgh asked rhetorically: "If a Jew needs a liver, can 
you take the liver of an innocent non-Jew passing by to save him? 
The Torah would probably permit that. Jewish life has an infinite 
value," he explained. "There is something infinitely more holy 
and unique about Jewish life than non- Jewish life." 

Changing the words "Jewish" to "German" or "Aryan" and "non- 
Jewish" to "Jewish" turns the Ginsburgh position into the doctrine 
that made Auschwitz possible in the past. To a considerable extent 
the German Nazi success depended upon that ideology and upon 
its implications not being widely known early. Disregarding even 
on a limited scale the potential effects of messianic, Lubovitch and 
other ideologies could prove to be calamitous. 

The difference in the attitudes about non-Jews in the Halacha 
and the Cabbala is well illustrated by the difference expressed 
specifically in regard to non-Jews who have converted to Judaism. 
The Halacha, although discriminating against them in some ways, 
treats converts as new Jews. The Cabbala is unable to adopt this 
approach because of its emphasis upon the cosmic difference 
between Jews and non-Jews. The Cabbala explains that converts 
are really Jewish souls consigned firstly to non-Jewish bodies as 
punishments and later redeemed by conversion to Judaism either 
because the punishment ended or because a holy man interceded. 
This explanation is part of cabbalistic belief in metempsychosis, 
which is absent in the Halacha. According to the Cabbala, a satanic 
soul cannot be transformed into a divine soul by mere persuasion. 

The ensuing discussion of Gush Emunim ideas and politics 
takes cognizance of the Lustick and Harkabi studies but relies 
primarily upon primary source material and upon analyses by Tal 
and other Hebrew-language writers. Tal described and analyzed 
Gush Emunim principles by quoting extensively from writings of 



THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY 63 

Rabbi Yehuda Amital, an outstanding Gush leader who was 
appointed minister without portfolio in the Israeli government in 
November 1995, by then Prime Minister Peres and who served in 
that capacity until June 1 996. Peres described Amital as a moderate. 
In explaining Amital's views, Tal relied heavily upon Amital's 
published article, "On the significance of the Yom Kippur War 
[1973]." To illustrate Amital's emphasis upon spiritual yearning 
and the political-messianic stream of thought, Tal quoted the 
following: 

The war broke out against the background of the revival of the 
kingdom of Israel, which in its metaphysical (not only symbolic) 
status is evidence of the decline of the spirit of defilement in the 
Western world . . . The Gentiles are fighting for their mere survival 
as Gentiles, as the ritually unclean. Iniquity is fighting its battle 
for survival. It knows that in the wars of God there will not be a 
place for Satan, for the spirit of defilement, or for the remains 
of Western culture, the proponents of which are, as it were, 
secular Jews. 

Tal further interpreted Amital's and thus Gush Emunim's basic 
views: 

The modern secular world, according to this approach, "is 
struggling for survival, and thus our war is directed against the 
impurity of Western culture and against rationality as such." It 
follows that the alien culture has to be eradicated because "all 
foreignness draws us closer to the alien, and the alien causes 
alienation, as is the position of those who still adhere to Western 
culture and who attempt to fuse Judaism with rationalist empiricist 
and democratic culture." According to Amital's approach, the 
Yom Kippur War has to be comprehended in its messianic 
dimension: a struggle against civilization in its entirety. 

Tal proceeded in his discussion to ask Amital a multi-faceted, 
serious question: "What is the point of all the affliction? Why do 
wars continue, if the Messiah has already come and if the Kingdom 
of Israel has already been established?" Amital replied: "The war 
initiates the process of purification, of refinement, the purifying and 
cleaning of the congregation of Israel." Tal continued to discuss: 
"We thus learn that there is only one explanation of the wars: they 
refine and purify the soul. As impurity is removed, the soul of Israel 
- by virtue of the war - will be refined. We have already conquered 
the lands; all that now remains is to conquer impurity." 

The followers of the two Rabbi Kooks have applied the above 
concepts to all other Israeli wars. Rabbi Shmaryahu Arieli, for 



64 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

example, explained, according to Tal, that the 1967 war was a 
"metaphysical transformation" and that the Israeli conquests 
transferred land from the power of Satan to the divine sphere. This 
supposedly proved that the "messianic era" had arrived. Tal also 
quoted the teachings of Rabbi E. Hadaya: "[The conquests of 
1967] liberated the land from the other side [a polite name for 
Satan], from a mystical force that embodies evil, defilement and 
moral corruption. We [the Jews] are thus entering an era in which 
absolute sovereignty rules over corporeality." Tal emphasized that 
these statements constituted a warning that any Israeli withdrawal 
from conquered areas would have metaphysical consequences that 
could result in restoring to Satan sovereignty over that land. Other 
Gush Emunim leaders directly and indirectly expressed the same 
ideas in their public statements and writings. 

There can be little doubt that Gush Emunim has seriously 
affected Israeli Jewish religious leaders and lay people. During the 
time of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, for example, the military 
rabbinate in Israel, clearly influenced by the ideas of the two Rabbi 
Kooks, exhorted all Israeli soldiers to follow in the footsteps of 
Joshua and to re-establish his divinely ordained conquest of the land 
of Israel. This exhortation of conquest included extermination of 
non-Jewish inhabitants. The military rabbinate published a map 
of Lebanon in which the names of Lebanese towns had been 
changed to the names of cities found in the Book of Joshua. Beirut, 
for example, was changed to Be'erot. The map designated Lebanon 
as land belonging to the ancient northern tribes of Israel, Asher and 
Naphtali. As Tal wrote: "Israel's military presence in Lebanon 
confirmed the validity of the Biblical promise in Deuteronomy 
1 1:24: 'Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be 
yours; our border shall be from the wilderness, from the river 
Euphrates, to the western sea.'" The followers of the two Rabbis 
Kook viewed Lebanon as being delivered from the power of Satan 
with its inhabitants being killed in the process." Such a view is not 
exceptional; it has numerous ancient and modern parallels, both 
religious and secular. The idea of a murderous purification of land 
from the evil and defilement that provoke God is common. In her 
chapter, "The Rites of Violence," in the book, Society and Culture 
in Early Modern France, Natalie Z. Davis, for example, presented 
the same idea as being the rationalization for the massacres 
perpetrated by France in the second half of the sixteenth century. 
In his excellent book. The Pursuit of the Millennium, to cite another 
example, Norman Cohn discussed Christian religious movements 
that sought to bring about the millennium by the use of force 
resulting in the deaths of many people. 

Three interpretative and interrelated comments about Tal's 
analysis of Gush Emunim should be made. First, the rabbis, cited 



THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY 65 

as authorities by both Tal and the authors of this book, are not 
obscure or fringe rabbis but are important Israeli figures. As 
previously noted, Shimon Peres, when prime minister, regarded 
one of them, Rabbi Amital, as a moderate and appointed him 
minister without portfolio. Second, Tal was able to comprehend 
the real essence of what he termed the "political messianic trend." 
His expertise in German Nazism, particularly in Nazi ideology and 
its sources, almost certainly helped him in his study of Gush 
Emunim. (See Tal's book in Hebrew, Political Theology and the Third 
Reich, Tel-Aviv University Press, 1989.) The similarities between 
the Jewish political messianic trend and German Nazism are glaring. 
The Gentiles are for the messianists what the Jews were for the 
Nazis. The hatred for Western culture with its rational and 
democratic elements is common to both movements. Finally, the 
extreme chauvinism of the messianists is directed towards all non- 
Jews. The 1973 Yom Kippur War, for instance, was in Amital's 
view not directed against Egyptians, Syrians and/or all Arabs but 
against all non-Jews. The war was thus directed against the great 
majority of citizens of the United States, even though the United 
States aided Israel in that war. This hatred of non-Jews is not new 
but, as already discussed, is derived from a continuous Jewish 
cabbalistic tradition. Those Jewish scholars who have attempted 
to hide this fact from non-Jews and even from many Jews have not 
only done a disservice to scholarship; they have aided the growth 
of this Jewish analogue to German Nazism. 

The ideology of the Rabbis Kook is both eschatological and 
messianic. It resembles in this respect prior Jewish religious doctrines 
as well as similar trends in Christianity and Islam. This ideology 
assumes the imminent coming of the Messiah and asserts that the 
Jews, aided by God, will thereafter triumph over the non-Jews and 
rule over them forever. (This, it is alleged, will be good for the non- 
Jews.) All current political developments will either help bring this 
about sooner or will postpone it. Jewish sins, most particularly lack 
of faith, can postpone the coming of the Messiah. The delay, 
however, will not be of long duration, because even the worst sins 
of the Jews cannot alter the course of redemption. Sins can 
nevertheless increase the sufferings of Jews prior to the redemption. 
The two world wars, the Holocaust and other calamitous events 
of modern history are examples of punishment. The elder Rabbi 
Kook did not disguise his joy over the loss of lives in World War 
I; he explained that loss of lives was necessary "in order to begin 
to break Satan's Power." The followers of the elder Rabbi Kook's 
pronouncements often have detailed in depth such explanations. 
Rabbi Dov Lior, one of the best-known rabbis of the aforemen- 
tioned Gush Emunim rabbinical council and the rabbi of Kiryat 
Arba, for instance, argued that Israel's failure in its 1982 invasion 



66 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

of Lebanon was due to the lack of faith manifested in the signing 
of the peace treaty with Egypt and the returning of "the inheritance 
of our ancestors [Sinai] to strangers." Lior also explained in an article 
about him, published in the Hadashot Supplement of December 20, 
1991, that the capture by the Syrians of two Israeli diplomats 
stationed in Junieh, Lebanon, in May 1 984, was "a just punishment 
for the maltreatment in detention of our boys from the Jewish 
underground." In the Hadashot article Lior added "I do not know 
what sufferings can yet befall all the Jews" for this crime. 

Explanations that may appear to the uninitiated to be outlandish 
and bizarre are sometimes the most readily acceptable to Gush 
Emunim followers. This is especially the case when these followers 
believe redemption is near at hand. They believe that Satan, as 
described in the Cabbala, is rational and well-versed in logic; they 
believe further that the power of Satan and of his earthly manifes- 
tation, the non-Jews, can at times only be broken by irrational action. 
Gush Emunim thus founded settlements on the exact days of 
United States Secretary of States James Baker's recurrent arrivals 
in Israel not merely to demonstrate Gush Emunim power but also 
as part of a mystical design to break the power of Satan and its 
American incarnation. In the past, different Jewish religious 
movements, for example, the movement of the false Messiah 
Shabtai Zvi in 1 665 and 1 666 and early Hassidism, had employed 
similar logic. Certain Christian and Islamic movements also 
employed analogous logic at certain times. 

Gush Emunim ideologues, especially Rabbi Kook the elder, not 
only derived their ideas largely from Jewish tradition but were also 
innovative. How they developed the Messiah concept is illustrative. 
The Bible anticipated only a single Messiah. Jewish mysticism 
anticipated two Messiahs. According to the Cabbala the two 
Messiahs will differ in character. The first Messiah, a militant 
figure called "son of Joseph," will prepare the material precondi- 
tions for redemption. The second Messiah will be a spiritual "son 
of David" who will redeem the world by spectacular miracle- 
making. (Gush Emunim followers believe that miracles occur at 
various times.) The cabbalistic conception is that the two Messiahs 
will be individuals. Rabbi Kook the elder altered this idea by 
anticipating and advocating that the first Messiah will be a collective 
being. Kook identified his group of followers as the collective "son 
of Joseph." Gush Emunim leaders, following the teaching of Rabbi 
Kook the elder, continue to perceive their rabbis, and perhaps all 
followers as well, as the collective incarnation of at least one and 
perhaps two divinely ordained Messiahs. Gush Emunim members 
believe that this idea should not be revealed to the uninitiated 
until the right time. They believe further that their sect cannot err 
because of its infallible divine guidance. 



THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY 67 

Rabbi Kook's second innovation concerned the relationship of 
the first Messiah to ignorant non-believing Jews, both secular and 
religious. Rabbi Kook derived this concept from the biblical 
prophecy that the Messiah "bringing salvation" will be "riding 
upon an ass and upon a colt, the foal of an ass" [Zechariah 9:9], 
The Cabbala regarded this verse as evidence for two Messiahs: one 
riding upon an ass and the other upon a colt. The question here 
was: How could a collective Messiah ride upon a single ass? Kook 
answered the question by identifying the ass with Jews who lacked 
wisdom and correct faith. Kook postulated that the collective 
Messiah would ride upon these Jews. This meant that the Messiah 
would exploit them for material gains and would redeem them to 
the extent that they could be redeemed. The idea of redemption 
through contact with a spiritually potent personality has been a major 
theme common to all strands of Jewish mysticism. It has been 
applied not only to humans and their sins but also to animals and 
inanimate objects. In Israel this idea is still a part of religious 
education. Popular books for religious children contain many 
stories that allegedly illustrate this point. One of the most repeated 
stories is about a virtuous wild duck that is caught, killed and 
made into a succulent dish for a holy rabbi. This duck is considered 
to be redeemed by its being eaten by the holy man. The Gush 
Emunim innovation here has been to apply this not only to non- 
believing Jews who are redeemed by following the collective Messiah 
but also to all conceivable material objects, ranging from tanks to 
money. Everything can be redeemed if touched or possessed by Jews, 
especially messianic Jews. Gush Emunim members apply this 
doctrine to the conflict in the Holy Land. They argue that what 
appears to be confiscation of Arab-owned land for subsequent 
settlement by Jews is in reality not an act of stealing but one of sanc- 
tification. From their perspective the land is redeemed by being 
transferred from the satanic to the divine sphere. Gush Emunim, 
so its followers believe, is by virtue of exclusive access to the total 
and only truth more important than the remainder of the Jewish 
people. Gush Emunim rabbis utilize the following analogy of the 
messianic ass: given its lowly status in the hierarchy of beings, the 
ass must remain ignorant of the noble purpose of its divinely 
inspired rider. This is the case in spite of the fact that the ass 
surpasses the rider in size and sheer power. The divine rider in this 
analogy leads the ass toward its own salvation. Because of his 
noble purpose the rider may have to kick the ass during the course 
of the journey in order to make sure that the ass does not stray from 
the ordained path. In the same way, the Gush Emunim rabbis assert, 
this one messianic sect has to handle and lead the ass-like Jews, 
who have been corrupted by satanic Western culture with its 
rationality and democracy and who refuse to renounce their beastly 



68 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

habits and embrace the true faith. To further the process, the use 
of force is permitted whenever necessary. 

The final innovation of Rabbi Kook the elder contributed most 
decisively to the popularity and political influence of his early 
followers and subsequently of Gush Emunim. During the period 
of redemption this innovation affected the conduct of the elect in 
relation to worldly concerns and contacts with other Jews and 
non-Jews. Rabbi Kook taught that the elect should not stand aloof 
from the rest of the world, as Jews had often done in the past. 
Realizing that other people were sinful and even satanic in nature, 
the elect had to attempt to bridge the gap between themselves and 
the others by actively involving themselves in society. Only by so 
doing would the elect have any chance to sanctify others. The elect 
should provide an example, exert influence politically and 
increasingly make contact with other people. Since the 1920s this 
doctrine has greatly influenced the behavior of those affiliated with 
the NRP. After being established in 1 974, Gush Emunim vigorously 
reasserted this doctrine in spite of great resentment of the public. 
Unlike Orthodox Jews previously, Rabbi Kook's followers began 
to dress like secular Jews and only distinguished themselves 
outwardly by wearing skullcaps. To date they have followed the 
Israeli secular clothing fashions of the 1950s. In their schools they 
introduced portions of secular teaching into their curricula. They 
permitted their people to enroll in Israeli secular universities. They 
additionally established the religiously oriented Bar-Ilan University. 
Although restricting the Bar-Ilan teaching staff to religious Jews, 
Gush Emunim sought to expand the university's scope of instruction 
to include all the usual academic disciplines. The Haredim have 
consistently resented and viewed with abhorrence these pursuits 
of what they regard as secularization. Rabbi Kook insisted that each 
Jew had a religious duty to fight and to train to fight. NRP members 
have faithfully followed this teaching. Many Gush Emunim 
members have been and still are officers of the Israeli army's select 
units; their proportion in such units has continually increased. 
Gush Emunim religious school students have gained renown for 
their excellent combat qualities, their high motivation to fight, 
their relatively high casualty rate during the Lebanon war and 
their willingness to beat up Palestinians during the Intifada. 

Gush Emunim has won broad public sympathy in Israeli Jewish 
society because of its attitude towards army service. This contrasts 
sharply with the societal antagonism directed against the Haredim 
for their dodging of military service. The doctrine of sanctity, 
attributed by the two Rabbi Kooks to almost every Zionist 
enterprise, contributed even more to the widespread public 
sympathy for and support of Gush Emunim. Tal contrasted the 
religious Zionist outlook of Rabbi Kook the younger and Gush 



THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY 69 

Emunim with that of the secular left. Tal defined the secular left's 
Zionist outlook as a "poetic, lyrical notion, according to which the 
return to the soil, life within nature, the agricultural achievements, 
the secular creativity [are essential parts] ." The two Rabbi Kooks, 
while acknowledging that the secular left's notion unwillingly 
served the coming of messianic redemption, emphasized "the 
military victories upon holy soil and the Jewish blood spilled on 
this soil." Rabbi Kook the younger, together with other Gush 
Emunim leaders, went further, according to Tal, by defining "the 
State of Israel as the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Israel 
as the kingdom of heaven on earth." Followers of Rabbi Kook still 
refer to Israel as the "earthly support of the Lord's throne." Israel 
Harel, one of the most important Gush Emunim leaders, used this 
expression to make a political point in his weekly column in Haaretz 
on September 1 2, 1 996. Quoting an early essay by Rabbi Kook the 
elder, Harel wrote that the State of Israel was "the base of the Lord's 
throne in this world" and thus is and should be completely different 
from states "considered by Locke, Rosseau and others." For such 
people as Harel, total holiness envelops and justifies everything Israel 
does within the context of divinely inspired guidance. Tal wrote 
that from this vantage point "every action, every phenomenon, 
including secularism, will one day be engulfed by sacredness, by 
redemption." It is not inconceivable that this type of sacredness 
could lead to the exploding of nuclear bombs in order to end the 
power of Satan and to establish "the base of the Lord's throne in 
this world." 

In many respects Gush Emunim members and the majority of 
NRP supporters have continued to resemble the early Zionist 
pioneers. This fact has boosted their public image. They have 
helped to promote this image by presenting themselves to the 
uninitiated as successors of the pioneers of the 1920s and 1930s 
who are still cherished in the Jewish national memory and lauded 
in Israeli education. As previously indicated, Gush Emunim 
members, except for their miniscule skullcaps, continue consciously 
to emulate the dress and mannerisms of the early pioneers. The 
almost exclusively Ashhenazi background of both the early pioneers 
and the Gush Emunim settlers help this emulation. All Gush 
Emunim rabbis are Ashkenazi. The accepted Israeli standards of 
religious education, discussed in Chapter 3, are largely responsible 
for the absence of Oriental Jews among Gush Emunim rabbis. 
Although unwillingly to join, many Oriental Jews have supported 
and continue to support Gush Emunim. The Likud constituency 
has to date consistently supported Gush Emunim. By contrast, most 
members of the Labor Party supported Gush Emunim until the 
end of the 1970s but changed after Gush Emunim opposed the 
peace treaty with Egypt and demanded that Lebanon be annexed 



70 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

"as a part of the heritage of our ancestors, the tribes of Asher, 
Naphtali and Zebulun." Gush Emunim infuriated many Labor 
supporters by continuing to advocate other extreme hawkish policies 
and by fiercely opposing Sharon's 1982 alliance with the Lebanese 
Falangists, who were Christians and therefore considered to be 
idolaters. Gush Emunim's position in 1982 was that Jews in their 
battles and conquests should only rely upon God's help. Any 
alliances with non-Jews could incur God's wrath and lead to His 
withholding help. Such ideas were, even for extreme Labor Party 
hawks, unacceptable. 

Gush Emunim and NRP politics must be understood within the 
context of ideology. The ideology makes clear what members of 
these groups wish to accomplish. Books written in English have 
unfortunately failed to discuss adequately this ideology. Lustick's 
book, For the Land and the Lord, which discusses Gush Emunim's 
outward political behavior, is the prime example. Lustick relied to 
a great extent upon the writings of Harold Fisch for his analysis of 
Gush Emunim's political ideology. Fisch, a professor of English 
literature who seemingly has only limited competence in the 
Talmud and Cabbala, has mostly written for English-speaking 
readers and has primarily concentrated upon Christian funda- 
mentalists in the United States. Lustick also relied somewhat upon 
the writings of Rabbi Menachem Kasher. Kasher was a highly 
respected talmudic scholar who wrote in Hebrew and influenced 
potential Gush Emunim initiates. His messianic tracts are well- 
known to many Gush Emunim and Yeshiva students. Lustick only 
briefly quoted Kasher twice and then obfuscated what he did 
quote. In our book we have relied more upon what Kasher wrote 
and have additionally utilized other Gush Emunim literature. 

Gush Emunim activists live in a homogeneous West Bank society 
that they control. This society is mostly protected against "conta- 
mination" by rival detested ideologies, especially those that stem 
from Western culture and have been to some extent influenced the 
secular part of Israeli Jewish society. The possibility clearly exists 
that the Gush Emunim homogeneous society and its NRP 
supporters can increase their political power and influence within 
Israeli society. The ideology of the two Rabbis Kook is the 
determining force of NRP and Gush Emunim political action. 
The fundamental political tenet of Gush Emunim is that the Jewish 
people are unique. Gush Emunim members share this tenet with 
all Orthodox Jews, but they interpret it somewhat differently. 
Lustick discussed this tenet by focusing upon the Gush Emunim 
denial of one classical secular Zionist theme. Lustick correctly 
pinpointed the two assumptions of this theme, the first being that 
"Jewish life had been distorted on both the individual and the 
collective levels by the abnormality of diaspora existence." Second, 



THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY 71 

only by undergoing a "process of normalization," by emigrating 
to Palestine and by forming a Jewish state can Jews become a 
normal nation. Quoting Fisch, Lustick stated that for Gush Emunim 
this classical idea "is the original delusion of the secular Zionists." 
The Gush Emunim argument is that secular Zionists measured that 
"normality" by applying non-Jewish standards that are satanic.The 
secular Zionists focused upon certain nations that they considered 
"normal" and asserted that the non-Jews in these normal nations 
were more advanced than were most diaspora Jews. Because of this, 
so argued the secular Zionists, Jews should try to emulate those 
non-Jews by becoming a "normal" people in a "normal" nation 
state. The Gush Emunim counter argument is: "Jews are not and 
cannot be a normal people. Their eternal uniqueness ... [is] the result 
of the covenant God made with them at Mount Sinai." Lustick 
further explained this Gush Emunim position by quoting one of 
the group's leaders, Rabbi Aviner: '"While God requires other 
normal nations to abide by abstract codes of justice and right- 
eousness, such laws do not apply to Jews."' Haredi rabbis often 
cited this idea in their writings, but they strictly reserved its glaring 
consequences for the yet-to-come messianic age. The Halacha 
supports this reservation by carefully distinguishing between two 
situations in discussing codes of justice and righteousness. The 
Halacha permits Jews to rob non-Jews in those locales wherein Jews 
are stronger than non-Jews. The Halacha prohibits Jews from 
robbing non-Jews in those locales wherein the non-Jews are stronger. 
Gush Emunim dispenses with such traditional precautions by 
claiming that Jews, at least those in Israel and the Occupied 
Territories, are already living in the beginning of the messianic age. 
Lustick failed to explain adequately the messianic age consid- 
erations and the distinctions between Jews and non-Jews. Harkabi's 
treatment was better. In discussing the halachic teaching and the 
Gush Emunim position regarding murders, Harkabi explained 
that the murder of a Jew, particularly when committed by a non- 
Jews, is in Jewish law the worst possible crime. He then quoted the 
Gush Emunim leader, Rabbi Israel Ariel. Relying upon the Code 
of Maimonides and the Halacha, Rabbi Ariel stated: "A Jew who 
killed a non-Jew is exempt from human judgment and has not 
violated the [religious] prohibition of murder." Harkabi noted 
further that this should be remembered when "the demand is 
voiced that all non-Jewish residents of the Jewish state be dealt with 
according to halachic regulations." Gush Emunim rabbis have 
continually reiterated that Jews who killed Arabs should not be 
punished. Gush Emunim members not only help such Jews who 
are punished by Israel's secular courts but also refuse to call those 
Jews "murderers." It logically follows that the religious settlers and 
their followers emphasize the "shedding of Jewish blood" but show 



72 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

little concern about the "shedding of non-Jewish blood." The 
Gush Emunim influence on Israeli policies can be measured by the 
fact that the Israeli government's policy on this matter has clearly 
reflected the Gush Emunim position. The Israeli government 
under both Labor and Likud leadership has refused to free 
Palestinian prisoners "with Jewish blood on their hands" but has 
not hesitated to free prisoners "with non-Jewish blood on their 
hands." 

Another practical consequence of such attitudes is Gush 
Emunim's impact upon the conduct of the Israeli government in 
all matters concerning the territories. Gush Emunim continues to 
encourage Israeli authorities to deal cruelly with Palestinians in the 
West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The refusals of Prime Ministers 
Rabin, Peres and Netanyahu to advocate the evacuation of even a 
single Jewish settlement is attributable primarily to the influence 
of Gush Emunim. Gush Emunim's influence upon all Israeli 
governments and political leaders of varying political persuasions 
has been significant. 

The Gush Emunim attitude towards Palestinians, always referred 
to as "Arabs living in Israel," is important. Lustick mostly avoided 
this subject. Harkabi dealt with it honestly by extensively quoting 
the statements of Rabbis Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Shlomo Aviner and 
Israel Ariel. Kook, Aviner and Ariel viewed the Arabs living in Israel 
as thieves; they based their view upon the premise that all land in 
Israel was and remained Jewish and that all property found thereon 
thus belonged to Jews. Harkabi, who learned this when doing the 
research for his book, expressed his shock: "I never imagined that 
Israelis would so interpret the concept of historical right." Harkabi 
listed in sub-chapters of his book the numerous applications and 
extensions of this doctrine. He pointed out that for Gush Emunim 
the Sinai and present-day Lebanon are parts of this Jewish land 
and must be liberated by Israel. Rabbi Ariel published an atlas that 
designated all lands that were Jewish and needed to be liberated. 
This included all areas west and south of the Euphrates River 
extending through present-day Kuwait. Harkabi quoted Rabbi 
Aviner: "We must live in this land even at the price of war. 
Moreover, even if there is peace, we must instigate wars of liberation 
in order to conquer it [the land] ." It is not unreasonable to assume 
that Gush Emunim, if it possessed the power and control, would 
use nuclear weapons in warfare to attempt to achieve its purpose. 

For Gush Emunim, as Harkabi made clear and Lustick indirectly 
confirmed, the God-ordained inferiority of non-Jews living in the 
state of Israel extends to categories other than life and property. 
Gush Emunim has developed a foreign policy for the state of Israel 
to adopt. This policy stipulates that Arab hostility towards the Jews 
is theological in nature and is inherent. The conclusion drawn is 



THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY 73 

that the Arab-Israeli conflict cannot be resolved politically. This 
conclusion is supported by Lustick's quoting the prominent Gush 
Emunim leader and former Knesset member, Eliezer Waldman: 
'"Arab hostility springs, like all anti-Semitism, from the world's 
recalcitrance to be saved [by the Jews]"' (pp. 77-9). Lustick also 
quoted other Gush Emunim leaders who left no doubt about their 
refusal to enter into political agreements with "present-day Jewish 
inhabitants of the land who resist the establishment of Jewish 
sovereignty over its entirety." Lustick quoted Fisch who argued that 
Arab resistance could be attributed to Arabs' seeking "to fulfill their 
collective death-wish." Gush Emunim rabbis, politicians and 
ideological popularizers have routinely compared Palestinians to 
the ancient Canaanites, whose extermination or expulsion by the 
ancient Israelites was, according to the Bible, predestined by a divine 
design. This genocidal theme of the Bible creates great sympathy 
for Gush Emunim among many Christian fundamentalists who 
anticipate that the end of the world will be marked by slaughters 
and devastation. Gush Emunim has from its inception wanted to 
expel as many Palestinians as possible. Palestinian terrorist acts allow 
Gush Emunim spokespeople to disguise their real demand for 
total expulsion by arguing that expulsion is warranted by "security 
needs." 

Harkabi quoted the views of Mordechai Nisan, a lecturer at the 
Hebrew University in Jerusalem, that were published in the August 
1984 issue ofKivunim, an official publication of the World Zionist 
Organization (pp. 151-6). According to Nisan, who relied upon 
Maimonides, a non-Jew permitted to reside in the land of Israel 
"must accept paying a tax and suffering the humiliation of 
servitude." In keeping with a religious text of Maimonides, Nisan, 
according to Harkabi, demanded that a non-Jew "be held down 
and not [be allowed to] raise his head against Jews." Paraphrasing 
Nisan further, Harkabi wrote: "Non-Jews must not be appointed 
to any office or position of power over Jews. If they refuse to live 
a life of inferiority, then this signals their rebellion and the 
unavoidable necessity of Jewish warfare against their very presence 
in the land of Israel." Such views about non-Jews, published in an 
official publication of the World Zionist Organization, resemble Nazi 
arguments about Jews. Harkabi commented: "I do not know how 
many Jews share his [Nisan's] belief, but the publication of the article 
in a leading Zionist periodical is a cause for grave concern." 

The three following examples of other articles that appeared in 
Hebrew-language newspapers provide additional analyses of NRP 
and Gush Emunim attitudes. One of these articles deals with the 
most extreme group within Gush Emunim, named Emunim (Being 
Faithful). Established after the formation of the Rabin government 
in 1992, Emunim is led by Rabbi Benny Alon, the son of retired 



74 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

Deputy President of the Israeli Supreme Court Menahem Alon. 
Rabbi Alon, quoted by Nadav Shraggai in his September 18,1992 
Haaretz article, stated: 

The method of the mid-1970s will no longer work under a 
government whose moral profile is defined by the Meretz Party 
and whose members' hearts and minds are filled with scorn for 
the entire land of Israel and for Judaism. They not only want a 
Palestinian state without any Jews to be established in the very 
midst of the land of Israel. They also want a secular democratic 
state to replace the Jewish state of Israel. This government is 
spiritually rotten. 

Rabbi Alon then contrasted the 1992 government leaders with the 
Labor leaders of the mid-1980s and before, who "felt like warm- 
hearted Jews feel" and were thus responsive to Gush Emunim's 
pressures. Alon continued, "But you cannot apply the same methods 
with the likes of [Meretz MK] Dedi Tzuker or [Meretz member] 
Moshe Amirav who coordinate their deeds with our enemies." In 
preparing his September 18,1992 Maariv article, journalist Avi Raz 
questioned Alon further and discovered Emunim's tactics: 
"Emunim wants to discredit Rabin [the then prime minister] by 
forcing him to rely [for a Knesset majority] on the MKs from the 
Arab parties and thus to destroy the legitimacy of his government." 
Rabin and Peres made concessions but nevertheless insisted upon 
expanding Jewish settlements. In his article Raz quoted Alon 
further: 

From the spiritual point of view Rafael Eitan is wrong and 
should be criticized when he justifies Jewish settlements on the 
basis of helping Israeli's security. Security considerations in 
favor of the settlements are not the point. As I see it, politics rest 
upon spirituality. A body politic needs a soul. Israel's security 
and even the survival of the Jewish nation are no more than 
material dimensions of the spiritual Jewish depth. When we say 
that we must prevent the formation of a Palestinian state in order 
to save the Jewish state from extinction, we are not talking about 
spiritual things. 

As Raz observed: "Blessed with profound spirituality, Alon and his 
associates go to the United States for five days in order to request 
Christian fundamentalists to support financially their activities." 
Alon and his associates succeeded in acquiring some of this 
requested funding. As Jewish fundamentalists who abominate non- 
Jews, they forged a spiritual alliance with Christians who believe 
that supporting Jewish fundamentalism is necessary to support 



THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY 75 

the second coming of Jesus. This alliance has become a significant 
factor in both US and Middle Eastern politics. 

The second example concerns the policies of Gush Emunim itself 
under the Labor and Meretz government of the 1990s. In his 
October 5, 1992 Haaretz article, Danny Rubinstein quoted Gush 
Emunim leaders who believed the goal of Rabin's policies was "to 
destroy root and branch the [Jewish] settlements in the territories 
and all accomplishments of Zionism." Rubinstein carefully dis- 
tinguished between the secular Golan Heights settlers and Gush 
Emunim. The Golan Heights settlers claimed that Rabin's policies 
were mistaken, because peace with Syria could be reached on 
Israeli terms. Gush Emunim claimed that "the Washington 
negotiations [with the PLO] amount to nothing else than a dialogue 
of human beings with a herd of ravenous wolves, aiming solely at 
turning the entire land of Israel into the entire land of the Arabs." 
This does not mean that Gush Emunim declined to take money 
for its own purposes from the government that negotiated "with a 
herd of ravenous wolves." 

In his October 14, 1992 Haaretz article, Nadav Shraggai discussed 
a symposium, organized and underwritten by the ministry of 
religion in conjunction with the ministry of education, headed by 
Shulamit Aloni. The symposium's theme was: "Is autonomy for 
resident aliens in the Holy Land feasible?" Rabbi Shlomo Goren, 
the symposium's major speaker, explained: "'Autonomy is 
tantamount to a denial of the Jewish religion.'" According to 
Goren, the Halacha considers the denial of Judaism to be the 
gravest Jewish sin and enjoins pious Jews to kill those infidels who 
deny Judaism. Rabbi Goren likened such infidels to those people 
who advocated autonomy. This indicated that an attempt to 
assasinate Rabin would occur for religious reasons. Goren argued 
further that Judaism prohibits "granting any national rights to any 
group of foreigners in the land of Israel." Goren also denied that 
a Palestinian nation existed. He asserted: "Palestinians disappeared 
in the second century bc, and I have not heard of their being 
resurrected." Goren reassured his audience that, undeterred by 
widespread infidelities, "the process of redemption, already 
underway for one hundred years, cannot be reversed when Divine 
Providence awaits us all the time." Another symposium participant, 
Rabbi Aviner, concurred with Goren that Judaism forbade granting 
even a small amount of autonomy to the Palestinians. Rabbi 
Zalman Melamed, chairman of the Committee of the Rabbis of 
Judea, Samaria and Gaza, made the same point even more clearly: 
"No rabbinual authority disputes that it would be ideal if the land 
of Israel were inhabited by only Jews." Rabbi Shlomo Min-Hahar 
extended the argument to Muslims and Christians specifically by 
claiming: "The entire Muslim world is money-grubbing, despicable 



76 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

and capable of anything. All Christians without exception hate the 
Jews and look forward to their deaths." 

Israeli taxpayers, including Muslim and Christian Arabs, paid 
for this symposium, during which rabbinical leaders delivered such 
arguments. Prime Minister Rabin and the ministers of religion and 
education approved and did not utter publicly negative criticism 
of any of the views expressed. Rabin's approval might be understood 
as a part of his deliberate encouragement of political programs at 
variance with what he claimed to favor. Minister of Education 
Aloni's approval can be understood rationally only as another 
manifestation of her weakness, carelessness and foolishness. Both 
Rabin and Aloni visited Germany shortly before this symposium 
and fiercely condemned publicly the "German hatred of foreigners." 
They carefully avoided mentioning racist statements and recom- 
mendations made by rabbis in Israel about how foreigners should 
be treated. They did not mention, let alone condemn, Rabbi 
Melamed's advocacy of transfer, that is, the total expulsion of all 
non-Jews from the land of Israel. Such mention might have 
complemented their denunciation of German xenophobia. 

The third example, also taken from the Hebrew press, stems from 
a book of responsa, published in 1990. The book, Intifada Responses, 
written by the important Gush Emunim rabbi, Shlomo Aviner, 
provides in plain Hebrew halachic answers to the questions of 
what pious Jews should do to Palestinians during situations that 
arise at times similar to the Intifada. The book is divided into brief 
chapters that contain answers to questions. The answers do not 
relate to Israeli law. Quotations from the first two chapters 
(pp. 19-22) illustrate the essence of the questions and answers 
contained in this book. The first exemplary question in Chapter 1 
is: "Is there a difference between punishing an Arab child and an 
Arab adult for a disturbance of our peace?" The answer begins by 
cautioning people not conversant with the Halacha that comparisons 
should not be made between Jewish and Gentile underage minors; 
"As is known, no Halachic punishments can be inflicted upon 
Jewish boys below the age of thirteen and Jewish girls below the 
age of twelve ... Maimonides wrote that this rule applied to Jews 
alone ... not to any non-Jews. Therefore, any non-Jews, no matter 
what age, will have to pay for any crime committed." In providing 
his answer. Rabbi Aviner proceeded to quote another ruling by 
Maimonides that warned Jews not to punish a non-Jewish child who 
can be presumed to be "short of wisdom." Aviner concluded that 
determining whether a non-Jewish child is to be regarded as an adult 
depends upon whether that child, even if younger than thirteen, 
has sufficient understanding. According to what Aviner wrote in 
his book, any Jew is capable of judging whether a non-Jewish child 
should in this sense be considered and punished as an adult. The 



THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS PARTY 77 

second exemplary question is: "What shall we do if an Arab child 
intends to threaten a [Jewish] life?" Rabbi Aviner explained that 
all prior responsa dealt only with the actual commissions of crimes 
by non-Jewish children. He explained in this answer that if a non- 
Jewish child intended to commit murder, for example, by throwing 
a stone at a passing car, that the non-Jewish child should be 
considered a "persecutor of the Jews" and should be killed. Citing 
Maimonides as his authority, Aviner maintained that killing the non- 
Jewish child in this instance is necessary to save Jewish life. 

In the second chapter of his book Rabbi Aviner posed and 
answered a single question: "Does the Halacha permit inflicting 
the death penalty upon Arabs who throw stones?" His answer was 
that inflicting such a punishment is not only permitted but is 
mandatory. This punishment, moreover, is not reserved for stone 
throwers but can be invoked for other reasons. Aviner asserted that 
a rabbinical court or a king of Israel "has the power to punish anyone 
by death if it is believed that the world will thereby be improved." 
The rabbinical court or king of Israel can alternatively punish non- 
Jews and wicked Jews by beating them mercilessly, by imprisoning 
them under the most severe conditions and/or by inflicting upon 
them other extreme suffering. Gush Emunim spokespeople have 
argued that this power of the rabbinical court and king of Israel 
can devolve to the Israeli government, provided that government 
abides by the correct religious rulings. The punishments, mentioned 
here, should be invoked if the authorities believe that such 
punishment will deter other wicked people. Aviner made clear his 
preference was to invoke the death penalty and /or severe flogging 
upon any non-Jew found guilty of intending to throw stones at Jews. 

The discussion in this chapter should distinguish qualitatively 
the Gush Emunim-NRP form from the Haredi form of Jewish fun- 
damentalism. The greater potential danger clearly rests with the 
Gush Emunim and the NRP, because their members have involved 
themselves in the state in order to sanctify Israel. 



The Nature of Gush Emunim 
Settlements 



Media coverage of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories 
has primarily focused upon effects on Palestinians and the threat 
posed to peaceful resolution of conflict. From the prospective of 
Jewish fundamentalism the religious settlements should be viewed 
from three standpoints: their standing as citadels of messianic 
ideology, their present and potential influence upon Israeli society 
and their potential role as the nuclei of the new society that 
messianic leaders want to build. 

Such discussion must be preceded by two comments concerning 
the settlements, as viewed by Israeli society. The first comment is 
that a great majority of Israeli citizens, represented by Knesset 
members, favor Israel's retaining all settlements. In early 1999, at 
least 100 of the 120 Knesset members, including all the Labor Party 
members, almost certainly support this position even though minor 
differences exist about the form of retention. All Arab Knesset 
members oppose retaining the settlements; hence the percentage 
of Jewish Knesset members in favor is still even greater than a mere 
counting might indicate. In Israeli Jewish society, nevertheless, a 
sharp popular difference in point of view about settlements still 
exists. Some small groups on the left oppose all settlements. More 
importantly, most Israeli Jews consider it normal that Jews live in 
some settlements but abnormal that Jews live in other settlements. 
This distinction is usually ignored outside Israel, especially in the 
Arab world. 

The majority of Israeli Jews regard living in settlements in the 
"greater Jerusalem" area as normal. "Greater Jerusalem" is an 
Israeli urban and social term, not limited in meaning to the Green 
Line or to the municipal borders of Jerusalem, as established during 
the 1967 annexation. Living in "greater Jerusalem" means living 
in a place with bus connections adequate for Jews to travel by public 
transportation to Jerusalem for shopping or evening entertainment 
and to return home by midnight. In early 1999, more than 250,000 
Israeli Jews, about 5 per cent of the total Israeli population, lived 
in "greater Jerusalem." The total population of all other West 
Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights settlements is about 100,000. 

78 



THE NATURE OF GUSH EMUNIM SETTLEMENTS 79 

These 100,000 are not solidly grouped in a small area, closely 
connected with a big city, but are divided into many small 
settlements. Ariel, the largest West Bank settlement outside of 
"greater Jerusalem," for example, has about 15,000 inhabitants; 
Kiryat Arba has less than 6000; many settlements have about 100 
inhabitants. These numbers show that the majority of Israeli Jews 
regard living in those settlements as abnormal and refuse to settle 
there. In spite of the money expended and the other forms of 
support by Israeli governments for so long a time period, only a 
small number of Jews have opted to live in settlements in the 
occupied territories outside of "greater Jerusalem." 

In the settlements outside of "greater Jerusalem" another 
distinction, constantly made by the Israeli Jewish public, must be 
noted. Those settlements whose inhabitants are similar socially and 
politically to the majority secular segment of Israeli Jewish society 
have been and still are viewed differendy than are those setdements 
whose inhabitants are mostly or totally religious Jews. (As previously 
stated only 20 per cent of all Israeli Jews are religious.) This is seen 
in Israeli election results, reported by the media about every four 
years for each locality, including each settlement. In the "greater 
Jerusalem" settlements, the voting pattern does not differ from the 
Jewish average behind the Green Line; in other secular settlements 
the pattern is almost the same with only a small tilt to the right. 
The Labor and Meretz parties regularly receive good percentages 
of the total vote. In the religious settlements, on the other hand, 
the inhabitants rarely even vote for Likud or other right-wing 
secular parties; they vote instead for religious parties and quite often 
only for the NRP. In Kiryat Arba in the 1 992 elections, for example, 
the four largest secular parties - Labor, Likud, Meretz and Tsomet 
- received altogether less than 5 per cent of the vote. Nationally, 
those parties together received about 80 per cent of the national 
vote. In the 1 996 election the Likud vote in Kiryat Arba rose to 
24.4 per cent because of Netanyahu's promises; in the separate vote 
for prime minister that year Netanyahu received 96.3 per cent and 
Peres only 3.6 per cent. (In the national vote for prime minister 
that year Netanyahu received 50.1 per cent and Peres 49.3 per cent.) 
Beit El B is a typical smaller religious settlement in which Netanyahu 
received 99.6 per cent of the prime minister's vote in 1996 to only 
0.3 per cent for Peres. In the Knesset election that same year in 
Beit El B, the NRP received 76.4 per cent and Moledet, the most 
right-wing party represented in the Knesset, with strong religious 
tendencies, received 14.5 per cent. Thus, NRP and Moledet, the 
two parties that garnered together 1 1 of the 1 20 Knesset seats or 
9.1 per cent in 1996, received 90 per cent of the Beit El B vote. In 
contrast, in the secular settlement, Alfey Menashe, Netanyahu 
received 71.5 per cent and Peres 28.4 per cent of the vote. 



80 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

The most exposed and isolated settlements are those inhabited 
by religious settlers. Although largely ignored by the media outside 
of Israel, this is a significant fact. In these exposed and isolated 
settlements, only religious messianic Jews are prepared to settle. 
To a greater extent, this has been the major reason why all Israeli 
governments have supported the religious messianic settlements 
regardless of how the inhabitants there have voted. Netzarim, 
situated in the middle of the Gaza Strip, is a good example of these 
settlements. To the north of Netzarim is Gaza City, to the south, 
some of the largest refugee camps. Each conglomeration has about 
200,000 inhabitants. In mid 1998, Netzarim had about 120 religious 
messianic Jewish settler families. (At the time that the Oslo 
agreement was signed, Netzarim had almost 60 families.) Some of 
the adult males living in Netzarim spend most of their time studying 
Talmud. Near Netzarim is an army base that guards a military road 
crossing the Gaza Strip from east to west. This road, which 
according to the Oslo agreement is under exclusive Israeli control, 
cuts the Gaza Strip into two parts. The army base is strategic in 
controlling Gaza but is represented to the Israeli Jewish public and 
to the outside world as necessary to protect the settlement of 
Netzarim. Secular, traditional and/or Haredi Jews have not opted 
to settle in Netzarim and have given no indications of settling 
there in the future. Thus, the Israeli government, wishing to 
maintain the control of the road, must depend upon the messianic 
settlers who are ideologically dedicated to settle in such a place. 

Settlements in the Occupied Territories can be correctly 
understood only within the context of overall Israeli strategy. The 
basic concept, held since 1967 by both Labor and Likud with 
different degrees of hypocrisy, has been to oppress Palestinians with 
maximum efficiency. Maximum efficiency includes minimal number 
of Jewish forces to achieve the specific purpose. The major idea is 
that well-trained Jewish soldiers should to the greatest extent 
possible be reserved for any major war with one or more of the Arab 
states. Soon after acquiring the Occupied Territories in June, 1967, 
the Israeli government seriously considered the "Jordanian option." 
This idea was that Jordanian forces would come to the West Bank 
to do the necessary job for Israel. The government of Jordan, 
however, refused to agree to this plan. Hence, the government of 
Israel then devised and instituted the "village leagues," composed 
of local Palestinians who effectively ruled the West Bank for some 
years with only slight support of the Israeli army. The Intifada broke 
the "village leagues." Both the "Jordanian option" and the "village 
leagues" concepts were devised for the same purpose as was the 
Oslo process in the 1990s. Prime Minister Rabin clearly explained 
that this purpose was to have Palestinians ruled on Israelis' behalf 
by their own people. This was to be accomplished without 



THE NATURE OF GUSH EMUNIM SETTLEMENTS 81 

interference from human right organizations and without Israeli legal 
hindrances to the arbitrary will of the conquest regime. The Israeli 
army, according to this thinking, would be free to concentrate 
upon its grand military strategy. 

Israeli strategy regarding the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 
the period after Oslo was and still is based upon settlements being 
the foci of Israeli military power. This strategy can best be described 
by considering the Gaza Strip, where the geography is much clearer 
than in the West Bank. The Gaza Strip, as clearly seen on published 
maps, is criss-crossed by military roads. In keeping with the Cairo 
Accords, these military roads remain under exclusive Israeli 
jurisdiction and are patrolled by the army, either jointly with 
Palestinian police or separately. The Israeli army has the legal 
right to close any section of these roads to Palestinian traffic, even 
if the section is within an area ruled by the Palestinian Authority. 
The Israeli army uses this right routinely either when a convoy on 
route to a settlement is passing or when a decision is made to 
embarrass the Palestinian Authority. One of these roads, the Gaza 
City bypassing road, traverses the length of the Strip, carefully 
bypassing the main cities and refugee camps. Another military 
road, joined to a strip of land, cuts off the Gaza Strip from Egypt. 
Other roads traverse the Gaza Strip from the Israeli border on its 
east side to the sea or to the Jewish settlement block (Qatif) on the 
west. One such road, the Netzarim road, meets the Gaza City 
bypassing road at Netzarim, thus rendering Netzarim a strategi- 
cally important crossroad. Shortly after the signing of the Oslo 
Accord, the Israeli Hebrew press reported that large forces of the 
border guards and the army were stationed near Netzarim where 
a new base had been constructed for them. The official status of 
Netzarim allowed Israel to do this legally and to acquire the support 
of that part of the Israeli Jewish public that is more devoted to 
settlements than to army bases. As the well-known commentator 
Nahum Barnea quipped: "Had a Netzarim not existed, it would 
have been invented." 

The overall effect of all these roads is that the Gaza Strip is sliced 
into enclaves controlled by the bypassing roads. The role of the 
Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip is to serve as pivots of the road 
grid. This is devised to ensure more effectual perpetual Israel 
control. This new form of control, labelled "control from the 
outside" by Rabin and other Labor politicians, allows the army to 
dominate the Gaza Strip with only a minor expenditure of forces. 
This is far preferable to the former situation in which huge control 
presence had to be expended for direct patrolling of cities and 
refugee camps of the Gaza Strip. The Hebrew press has continually 
referred to the earlier form of control as the "control from the inside" 
and has emphasized that it was less effective and required more 



82 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

forces than the "control from the outside." Changing from inside 
to outside control continues to depend upon the grid of roads 
which in turn depends upon settlements such as Netzarim. As 
already stated but worth repeating, only religious Jews who believe 
in messianic ideology have been willing to establish and live in such 
settlements. 

The situation in the West Bank, outside the greater Jerusalem, 
is geographically more complicated than the Gaza Strip but is 
essentially based upon the same principles of "control from the 
outside." This control is centered upon a grid of roads whose foci 
are the settlements. A few settlements were founded for sentimental 
reasons. Ariel Sharon, wanting to provoke the United States 
Secretary of State James Baker during his visits to Israel in 1991 
and 1992, helped establish these few settlements. Small groups of 
fundamentalist Jews, even more extreme than Gush Emunim, also 
helped establish these small settlements. Although given prominent 
media coverage, these settlements remained relatively insignifi- 
cant, representing only a small proportion of all the settlements. 
Settlements, such as Kiryat Arba and the separate Jewish settlement 
in Hebron, have been supported by all Israeli governments primarily 
for strategic reasons. Although at times creating smokescreens by 
making insulting comments about settlers, Prime Minister Rabin 
from the time of the Oslo agreement until his death strengthened 
most of the settlements, especially those in the West Bank. Yossi 
Beilin, one of the chief architects of the Oslo agreement, repeatedly 
reassured the Israeli public that the Labor government had not 
abandoned the settlers. Beilin, as reported in Maariv on September 
27, 1995, rebutted accusations made by Likud members of Knesset: 

Their most ridiculous accusation is that we have abandoned the 
settlers. The Oslo Accord was delayed for months to guarantee 
that all the settlers would remain intact and that the setders 
would have maximum security. This entailed making an 
immense financial investment in them. The situation in the 
settlements has never been better than that created following 
the Oslo Accord. 

Even more important is that the Labor government had an 
opportunity to remove the Hebron settlers, or at least a part of them, 
in the period of shock after Goldstein's massacre. The Labor 
government refrained from doing so. In his August 18, 1995 Davar 
article, Daniel Ben-Simon revealed the following about discussion 
of the issue in Prime Minister Rabin's office: "The heads of all Israeli 
security services opposed the evacuation of Hebron's settlers." 
Such opposition underlined the settlements' strategic importance 



THE NATURE OF GUSH EMUNIM SETTLEMENTS 83 

and the dependence of both the Israeli government and army upon 
the messianic settlers. 

The messianic ideology, described in the prior chapter, and the 
many pronouncements of messianic rabbis and lay leaders show 
that the aim of Gush Emunim, unlike the aim of Israeli governments, 
is not limited to the strategic value of utilizing settlements to keep 
control of the Occupied Territories. The more important aim of 
Gush Emunim leaders is to create in their homogeneous settlements 
models of a new society. They hope this new society will spread 
until it finally absorbs the secular, traditional and Haredi Jewish 
population of the state of Israel into the collective Jewish identity 
that they envision. This identity will, they believe, be the religious, 
ethnocentric, anti-liberal and anti-universalist society ordered by 
God. In attempting to conceptualize their plan, Gush Emunim 
leaders can tolerate democracy only so long as it helps to create 
the divine Jewish kingdom. They believe that any values not 
consistent with Jewish values, as established by the Halacha and 
Cabbala, should be suppressed. Human and civil rights, as well as 
the concept of statehood, should be established by a specified 
divinely inspired group of rabbis. These views became more widely 
acceptable in Israeli society, especially among NRP members, after 
the October 1973 war. In that war secular Israeli militarism suffered 
a defeat. The widely perceived failure of generals led to the formation 
of an esoteric elite that supposedly derived its knowledge from a 
higher source than mere strategic considerations. Some of the 
leading generals in that war were regarded as hedonists who were 
careless with the military affairs entrusted to them; Gush Emunim 
rabbis and lay leaders appeared to many Israeli Jews to be endowed 
with dedication, a sense of mission, moral superiority, strict honesty 
in financial affairs and a sense of their own certitude. This char- 
acterization, similar to that of Hamas leaders in Palestinian society, 
continued thereafter. Gush Emunim leaders have remained 
dedicated to their principles and are financially honest. In a society 
pervaded by many kinds of corruption, this is most important. Gush 
Emunim has been and still is endowed, moreover, with a territorial 
base of its own, replete with dedicated followers who can expertly 
handle weapons and execute military operations. 

The power of Gush Emunim increased significantly between 1974 
and 1992. In addition to its own members it acquired a periphery 
of supporters with varying degrees of commitment. Perhaps its 
greatest achievement after 1 974 was its ability to influence Israeli 
Jewish culture and collective identity during a period when 
ethnocentric ideas rose to the fore in Israeli society. Most of the 
political right wing, as well as many Labor Party supporters, 
remained sympathetic to Gush Emunim so long as Palestinians in 
the territories remained relatively docile. This situation lasted until 



84 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

the outbreak of the Intifada in December 1987. Before the Intifada, 
many Israeli Jews felt that the control of Palestinians from the inside 
was not too costly and was bearable. Hence, many secular Israeli 
Jews felt that they could afford to support the Gush Emunim 
version of the conquest rather than the Moshe Dayan version, 
which prevailed until 1974 and was based upon cooperation with 
conservative Palestinian notables. Cooperation with the traditional 
Palestinian notables made it unnecessary to keep large Israeli forces 
inside the areas densely inhabited by Palestinians. Because the 
notables were alienated by the settling and by the resultant 
confiscation of land in those areas, "village leagues" were invented 
as a substitute for the traditional forces. The Intifada showed that 
this prop was only of temporary value. The settling of the Gaza 
Strip and the remainder of the West Bank began in 1975 when 
Rabin for the first time was prime minister and Peres was the 
defense minister in charge of the territories. These two architects 
of the so-called peace process of the 1990s were largely responsible 
for one of the major factors preventing peace. 

The onslaught of the Intifada changed sentiment within Israeli 
Jewish society. The Israeli government deployed more Israeli 
soldiers in the territories. This caused many secular Israeli Jews to 
reconsider the costs involved in occupying the territories. Many of 
these Jews concluded that the cost was unwarranted. A new situation 
in Israeli society then developed and continued thereafter. The 
coalition of messianists and their various supporters, all ethnocentric 
to some extent, joined together and formed one camp. The other 
camp consisted of a politically and socially heterogeneous group 
of people, united in opposition to the type of Jewish theocracy that 
they saw as the inevitable consequence of the continued support 
of Gush Emunim and its settlements. The continuing Israeli 
domination of the Occupied Territories, dictated to some extent 
by Gush Emunim, developed into a major issue in the struggle 
between these two Israeli Jewish camps. 

The rapid organization of Gush Emunim settlers boosted the 
expansion and power of religious settlements after 1974. The 
rabbis who became and remained the dominant leaders of the 
Gush Emunim settlers in 1991, organized themselves into the 
Association of Judea and Samaria Rabbis. The group was founded 
after President Bush of the United States pressured the Shamir 
government to participate in the Madrid Conference. Lay settler 
leaders were afraid of what might develop at the Madrid Conference. 
As Dov Albaum wrote in the January 7, 1 994 issue of Yerushalaim: 
"The rabbis, trusting in the divine promise, took advantage of that 
situation by filling the leadership vacuum." The power of the 
rabbinical association increased after the Oslo agreement. Albaum 



THE NATURE OF GUSH EMUNIM SETTLEMENTS 85 

continued his analysis by quoting Daniel Shilo, the rabbi of the 
Kedunim messianic settlement: 

The Judea and Samaria rabbis are now solving the gravest 
problems the religious settlers face when they begin to lose faith 
in the Jewish settlement of Judea and Samaria, as ordered by God, 
to be an instrument of the Jewish redemption. Jews who lack faith 
even begin to ponder whether the whole idea of settlement in 
the territories might not be fundamentally wrong or whether the 
process of divine redemption is not in its retrogression stage or 
whether the Almighty is not trying to signal to us to halt the 
settling. In such a time rabbis have the obligation to provide the 
answers. This is why we rabbis have more power than any 
conceivable lay Gush Emunim authority. 

The rabbis used this power to emphasize that their followers were 
obligated to have faith in them. This is often disguised as having 
faith in God. 
Albaum further observed: 

The Judea and Samaria rabbis are not satisfied with being vested 
only with spiritual power. They began developing their own 
intelligence network, which quickly became extensive, using 
information gathered from religious or otherwise sympathetic 
officers of the Israeli army's high command. General Moshe Bar- 
Kochba, a member of the General Staff who recently died after 
retiring from the army, was named by the Judea and Samaria 
rabbis as one of their major informants. Bar-Kochba allegedly 
informed the rabbis regularly and in advance about the plans for 
army operations in the territories. Upon learning about his 
actions, other officers followed in his footsteps. Thereupon, the 
army command, in order to gain access to the real leadership of 
the religious settlers, decided to regularize those relations and 
to inform the rabbis officially about its operations. A battalion 
commander, for example, did not hesitate to dress a local 
settlement rabbi in army uniform, take him to a look-out post 
and identify to him the undercover soldiers operating in local Arab 
villages. [The commander hoped] that he would thus convince 
the Judea and Samaria rabbis to stop blocking the major highways 
and thereby obstructing the unit's movements. This was not an 
isolated instance. The heads of the Judea and Samaria Settlement 
Council, comprised of religious laymen, now confront a rabbinical 
council of what is effectively a kingdom of Judea, which arose 
before their eyes. The council of laymen derives some consolation 
from its solid connections with government agencies. Rabin, 
whose top priority interest is to reach a dialogue with religious 



86 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

settlers, keeps summoning the Judea and Samaria Council 
members for intimate talks. He cannot have the same contact 
with the kingdom of Judea rabbis, because they consider it 
demeaning to address a sinner like him. They also know that the 
lay council members would not dare to make a major decision 
without first obtaining their blessing. 

The Oslo process shocked Gush Emunim rabbis and lay settlers. 
This occurred in spite of the great material support for settlements 
that Gush Emunim received in the 1990s from Prime Ministers 
Rabin, Peres and Netanyahu. A few messianic rabbis offered 
explanations for the occurrence of Oslo and attempted to console 
their flock about the process, but they met with almost no success. 
Religious symbolism, especially appearing in apocalyptic forms, 
blocked acceptance. The sight of Palestinians waving their flags, 
the appearance of armed Palestinian police and the proliferating 
symbols of the Palestinian Authority constituted visible evidence 
for the failure of the messianic vision of quick redemption. This in 
turn deepened the hatred of "Jewish traitors," whose treason 
allegedly spoiled God's plan and influenced the majority of Jews 
to disregard the divine command and to follow the traitors. This 
hatred, directed mostly at Rabin and his ministers, was consistent 
with the Cabbala, which held that the redemption of the Jews had 
almost occurred at various times only to be prevented each time 
because a majority of the nation opted to follow a heretic or a traitor. 
In Jewish history those who have most strongly believed in the 
coming victory of redemption have also most strongly harbored 
feelings of betrayal. After Oslo such people were mostly concentrated 
in the religious settlements. 

Hatred of Arabs and secular Jews has not been solely limited to 
members of religious settlements. In his March 11, 1994 article, 
published in Shishi, Nerri Horowitz focused upon another group 
of extremists, called Hardelim. 1 Horowitz analysed Hardelim's 
"twofold hatred of Arabs and secular Jews" and presented docu- 
mentation in the form of quotations from their copious and abstruse 
literature, filled with cabbalistic references. Although esoteric, the 
literature of the Hardelim has influenced a majority of religious Jews. 
(A minority of religious Jews have opposed the Hardelim advocacy.) 

Nadav Shraggai presented a more popular description of this 
"twofold hatred" ideology in his February 18,1 994 Haaretz article. 
Shraggai pointed to the renunciation by some religious settlers and 
other religious Jews of the traditional prayer for the State of Israel, 
which was never accepted by the Haredim but said by NRP 
followers on every sabbath and religious holiday since 1948. 
Shraggai noted that some religious Jews who had previously 
recognized the State of Israel as holy renounced this prayer and 



THE NATURE OF GUSH EMUNIM SETTLEMENTS 87 

the holiness of the state; they became convinced that the government 
and therefore the state, in accepting Oslo, had "betrayed its sacred 
mission." After concluding that Rabin and his ministers were 
traitors, the messianists viewed as particularly offensive the following 
words of the prayer: "O, God, radiate your light and truth upon 
Israel's leaders, ministers and advisers." Shraggai correctly insisted 
that his analysis focused upon the relatively moderate antagonists. 
These moderates contented themselves with intense ideological 
debate but did not, as did the extremists, plan and engage in 
murder and other violent acts. Shraggai wrote: 

The personal, ideological and religious crisis in which the national- 
religious Jewish community in Israel has found itself, generated 
doubts about the very foundations of religious Zionism: namely 
its historic alliance with secular Zionism and its wholehearted 
acceptance of the State of Israel. In the past that alliance revolved 
around the perception that the secular State of Israel was the first 
stage in the process of redemption. At present, even the moderates 
question this assumption. These doubters do not have much in 
common with radicals like the admittedly marginal Yehuda 
Etzion of the Jewish Underground who opposes any Jewish state 
that is not a monarchy ruled by the Davidic dynasty, or Mordechai 
Karpel, the founder of the Jewish Nation Exists for Eternity 
movement, which also wants to turn Israel into a theocratic 
monarchy. 

Shraggai noted that several influential rabbis, including Azri'el 
Ariel who eulogized the assassin Goldstein, led the "moderates." 
Shraggai quoted Rabbi Ariel: 

The religious settlements were established not only to create facts 
on the ground but also to affect the hearts and minds of the Jewish 
people. We believed that, by encountering the holy parts of the 
land as if they were alive, the hearts of the Jewish masses would 
be united with the heart of the land. We envisaged the process 
as reconnecting the national Jewish consciousness with its spiritual 
roots. 

Rabbi Ariel further opined: 

For a majority of Jews the settlements have failed to restore that 
sacred linkage. The majority of Jews have renounced the Jewish 
roots present in their souls, profaning themselves by [committing 
the] sin of choosing the so-called "morality" of Western culture 
instead of their own moral values. In the state of that grave sin 
their hearts have remained unaffected by the land of Israel . . . 



88 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

We now have to build the sacred and observant community 
from within. Let us stop looking out. Let us stop to seek paths 
[that lead] to the hearts of our sinning Jewish brethren. One day, 
those who have effectively abandoned the Jewish religion will find 
their dreams shattered. They will become afflicted by a sense of 
emptiness. After having faltered on every path, they will come 
to seek us. Until then our role will consist of raising a generation 
of the truly chosen and holy ones, a generation capable of 
receiving Jewish repentant sinners with open arms. 

In presenting his argument, Rabbi Ariel did not mention 
Palestinians. Although presumably realizing that Palestinians on 
all sides surround their sacred and observant communities, Rabbi 
Ariel and others like him have consistently considered irrelevant 
the existence of Palestinians; they have concerned themselves with 
secular Jewish Zionists. Shraggai quoted Ariel: "Historic Zionism 
has reached its end in bankruptcy . . . The real Zionism, the holy 
one with profound roots, exists only where the really religious Jews 
are living; in the mountains of Judea and the valleys of Samaria." 
In his article Shraggai additionally quoted the articulate settlement 
rabbi, Yair Dreyfus. Maintaining that Israel was committing spiritual 
apostasy by making an agreement with the PLO, Rabbi Dreyfus 
argued further that the finalization of that agreement would "mark 
the end of the Jewish-Zionist era in the sacred history of the land 
of Israel." Dreyfus, as quoted by Shraggai, continued: 

Historians will record that the Jewish-Zionist era lasted from 1948 
to 1993. It ended when most Jews had turned into Canaanites. 
Hence, 1993 marks the beginning of the new Canaanite era ... 
in that era of sin Jewish political thought, cultural-educational 
thought included, will be polluted by a speedy Arabization. The 
Jewish left will continue its treacherous practices of dismissing 
Jews from key posts and replacing them with Arabs. This will 
be done in the government, broadcasting authority, land 
authority, editorial boards of newspapers and boards of university 
directors. Every important position will be filled by an Arab. 

Although his predictions were not fulfilled after 1993, Rabbi 
Dreyfus has remained steadfast in his belief about the new Canaanite 
era. For him pollution apparently often resulted when Jews had 
contact with Gentiles. Rabbi Dreyfus accused secular Jews of 
"wanting to create a new Israeli-Canaanite personality and thus 
destroying authentic Judaism by blending it with alien elements." 
He feared that this new personality would eliminate Jewish-Zionist 
motivation. He accused the Meretz Party of blending Communism 
into it and by this process polluting Zionism. This blend, Dreyfus 



THE NATURE OF GUSH EMUNIM SETTLEMENTS 89 

contended, "has begotten the seed for growth of a new Middle 
Eastern ethnicity: the Canaanite-Palestinian pseudo-Jews." He 
concluded: 

The true Jews, desirous to live as Jews, will have no choice but 
to separate themselves in ghettos. The new, sinful Canaanite- 
Palestinian state [Israel after Oslo] will soon be established upon 
the ruins of the genuine Jewish-Zionist state. It will not be, as 
Israel was expected to become by being true to the word of God, 
a foundation of God's throne on earth. God may even make war 
against this polluted throne of his. The Jews who lead us into 
that sin no longer deserve any divine protection. We must fight 
those who separated themselves from the true Israel. They have 
declared a war against us, the bearers of the word of God. Our 
leadership will walk a Via Dolorosa before it understands that 
we are commanded to resist the state of Israel, not just its 
present government. Our cooperation with its agencies can only 
be based upon a new covenant. Without it, we are going to 
surrender supinely to a government of sin. Instead of doing so, 
we shall pursue a merciless struggle against the Canaanite- 
Palestinian entity. 

By expressing his opinions openly and forcefully, Rabbi Dreyfus 
both represented and influenced the thinking of most religious 
settlers before and after the Rabin assassination. Notwithstanding 
the hostility to Christianity existent in historical Judaism and 
religious Zionism, the parallels here to specific Christian theological 
formulations are conspicuous. 

For secular Israeli Jews, the most important NRP and religious 
settler issue has revolved around the penetration of young NRP 
followers into the combat and elite units of the army and its officer 
corps. For nearly twenty-five years after the June 1967 war, this 
penetration on balance enhanced the image and importance of the 
NRP in Israeli society; a kind of partnership between the NRP and 
the secular majority emerged. The initiation of the Oslo process, 
however, provoked some rethinking by many secular Jews and 
raised some tough issues. The Rabin assassination heightened 
apprehension of and aroused fears about the NRP's penetration 
into the military. All of this occurred because of the strong military 
character of Israeli Jewish society. This character developed not 
only because Jewish males serve in the military for at least three 
years, 2 but also because they, after finishing their time of duty, 
continue serving as reservists for one month each year until the age 
of fifty-four. The fact that about one-half of all Israeli Jewish 
females serve in the military for at least two years additionally 
contributes to the shaping of this character. Those who serve in 



90 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

the combat and/or elite units or as pilots enjoy tremendous social 
prestige when they leave the service and often are able to exert 
political influence. The political weakness of religious parties, 
especially the NRP, before 1967 was directly related to the relative 
absence of religious soldiers in combat and elite units of the army. 
This situation changed slowly after 1967. When Gush Emunim 
appeared in 1975, its lay leaders and especially its rabbis began 
educating and inspiring young NRP followers to adopt the military 
profession as a religious duty, to join the combat and elite units of 
the army and to become officers. Young NRP followers became 
dedicated, disciplined and efficient soldiers, ready, if necessary, to 
sacrifice their lives for their country. The army high command and 
a large segment of the Israeli Jewish population welcomed this 
development with positive enthusiasm. The NRP thus earned 
public appreciation, just as the kibbutz movement had done 
previously, because of the excellent military performances of its 
young members. 

The Oslo process initiated a change in the almost unqualified 
admiration of Gush Emunim and the NRP. Fears arose that NRP 
followers in the army might refuse to carry out government orders 
for Israeli withdrawals from parts of the occupied territories and/or 
for the removal of one or more Jewish settlements. The fears 
expanded following the Rabin assassination. Even before the assas- 
sination, Baruch Kimmerling, in his April 6, 1994 Haaretz article, 
reflected a bit of the early apprehension and fear. He discussed the 
increasing penetration of the Israeli army by religious zealots and 
the powerful influence of the religious settlers upon units stationed 
in the territories. Kimmerling concluded: "Now it is all important 
that the army's command sees to it that every army unit is 
supervised. Perhaps those officers and even entire units, which were 
for too long involved in negotiations with the religious settlers and 
in protecting them and which have in the process developed too 
much affinity with them, should be instantly disbanded." 
Kimmerling regarded his recommendation as only a stop-gap 
solution. The army high command did not accept and most of the 
attentive public ridiculed the recommendation at that time. 
Kimmerling recognized that "in the long range" the problem that 
had arisen would be insoluble without a deep change in society. 
He wrote: "On the one hand, it is difficult to see how the army, 
having a significant number of officers adhering to ideology of 
religious settlers, could evacuate a Jewish settlement. On the other 
hand, I find it difficult to imagine how the Israeli army could be 
ideologically purified." 

Worth noting here are the two unique schemes devised for young 
NRP followers in an organized fashion to serve in and penetrate 
the combat and elite units. The first scheme was formulated as an 



THE NATURE OF GUSH EMUNIM SETTLEMENTS 91 

arrangement, not governed by law, between two independent 
parties: the Israeli defense ministry and the rabbinical heads of the 
NRP's Hesder Yeshivot religious schools. According to this 
arrangement, Hesder Yeshivot students receive a special kind of 
draft service. They are not inducted into the army in the normal 
way and thus do not serve continuously for three years in units 
assigned by the army according to its needs. The regular army units 
almost always consist of soldiers holding differing religious and 
secular views. The Hesder Yeshivot students instead are inducted 
into the army as a group and serve in their own homogeneous 
companies, accompanied by their rabbis who are responsible for 
and watch over the students' "religious purity." They serve for 
eighteen months rather than for the full three years. The eighteen- 
month period is not continuous but is rather divided into three 
six-month periods. After each period of army service, the Hesder 
Yeshivot students leave the army for a six-month period of talmudic 
study in a yeshiva wherein the presumably negative influences of 
having met secular Jewish soldiers are supposedly countered. The 
Hesder Yeshivot soldiers continue to serve in reserve units under 
the usual conditions. The political pressure exerted by Gush 
Emunim and the sympathy for its members felt by army generals 
in the 1970s were partly responsible for this special arrangement. 
The major reason for its continuation, however, is the excellent 
military quality and record of Hesder Yeshivot students. Their 
performance is far above the average of those in the Israeli army 
and their dedication is even greater. Not only the generals but also 
other soldiers hold this view. During the three years of the Lebanon 
War (1982-85) and in the aftermath of fighting in the "security 
zone," for example, Hesder Yeshivot students continued fighting 
and winning even after a high proportion of Israeli soldiers had been 
wounded and killed. Soldiers in Hesder Yeshivot units also dis- 
tinguished themselves during the suppression of the Intifada; they 
were noted for their cruelty to Palestinians, which was from many 
perspectives much more severe than the Israeli army average. The 
homogeneous composition of Hesder Yeshivot companies of 
soldiers is another reason for the continuation of the special 
arrangement. When the army commanding officers have wanted 
to inflict especially cruel punishment upon Palestinians or others, 
they have most often relied upon and used religious soldiers. In 
more ordinary companies, consisting of soldiers holding varying 
political views, some members might object to illegal cruelty and 
even inform media people of its use. In Hesder Yeshivot units the 
religious soldiers, who are anyway more cruel than most secular 
Jews, will not object to the orders. 3 

From 1 996, when indications appeared that membership in the 
Hesder Yeshivot had stopped increasing and may have begun to 



92 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

decrease, the religious pre-military academy scheme became the 
chief means of organized penetration by NRP supporters into the 
Israeli army. By this arrangement the young men, usually eighteen 
years of age, who enter religious pre-military academies are given 
draft deferments for one or one and one-half years of study. 
Afterwards, they serve for three years in ordinary combat or elite 
units. This is in contrast to serving, as do Hesder Yeshivot students, 
in homogeneous companies or units. The teachers in these 
academies are for the most part not rabbis but rather ex-officers 
who possess some talmudic knowledge. Only a small amount of 
the teaching is devoted to military subjects and training in hiking 
and endurance. Most of the teaching and study time is devoted to 
those parts of the Talmud and other religious literature that 
inculcate dedication to the land of Israel and to other values favored 
by Gush Emunim. The ascetic pre-military academy life is attractive 
to religious youth who are often in reaction against the hedonistic 
life style of secular Israeli youth. Since their inception the pre- 
military academies have been situated in settlements in the Occupied 
Territories. The army has from the beginning subsidized these 
academies to some extent, but the major part of the support money 
has come from private donors. Most graduates of these pre-military 
academies are well prepared and advance to the officer corps. 
Persuaded that the Israeli army is sacred, those who come out of 
these academies almost always serve their full three-year terms. 
Some serve for a much longer time and become career officers. 

After the Rabin assassination, many Israelis began to view the 
increasing number of NRP followers in the army as a threat to the 
government and to the Israeli regime as a whole. Ran Edelist 
summarized this concern well in his September 13, 1996 article in 
the Hebrew-language newspaper Yerushalaim, titled "First We 
Shall Conquer the Supreme Court and Then the General Staff." 
The title of this article suggests the desire to penetrate and conquer 
the most important institutions of the State of Israel. In discussing 
the general aims of the messianic religious right, of which the 
religious settlers are the advance guard, Edelist wrote: 

Their institutions have the stamina of a long-distance runner since 
they believe in the eternal survival of the Jewish nation; in this 
framework they prepared four approaches for the battle of the 
land of Israel: settlements, financial support, education and 
promotion of their men in the army to achieve domination of a 
future General Staff. This is not a conspiracy but a cool estimate 
of a national situation in their struggle for a future image of Israeli 
society and a sophisticated use of an opportunistic government, 
enabling them to fill their budgets. It is not a case of good and 
bad but a struggle about the character of the State of Israel. The 



THE NATURE OF GUSH EMUNIM SETTLEMENTS 93 

religious right wing uses the legitimate approach of conquering 
positions of power of which the General Staff is central. It may 
be said that since the inception of Israel the secret slogan of Israeli 
politicians was "we shall conquer first the security apparatus and 
then the Knesset and government." Ben-Gurion did this when 
he pushed out Sharett and Lavon. Golda Meir's slogan was "the 
party is everything," and since her time the Labor party has ruled 
in the General Staff. This rule was so absolute that Begin and 
Shamir, during the time that they were prime ministers, did not 
succeed in shaking this and forming another General Staff that 
would be influenced by their ideology. 

Understanding Israeli politics, the religious settlers devised and 
evolved their plan of penetrating the army, its officer corps and 
ultimately the General Staff. As Edelist wrote: 

The religious settlers understood that with the help of only party 
politics and their ideology they would not get far and would not 
achieve a State of Israel in the borders promised by God. If they 
therefore want to be represented in every place in which the 
important decisions are made, especially in the army as a whole 
and particularly in the General Staff, they must be represented 
in such places. First the aim and then the means to achieve that 
end were decided. 

The Hesder Yeshivot and the religious pre-military academies 
became those means. 

Other Israeli political observers and commentators seconded 
Edelist's analysis. In his January 24, 1 997 Haaretz article, titled "The 
Army of the Lord," Yidan Miller, for example, described the views 
of Dr Reuven Gal, who served as the chief psychologist of the Israeli 
army between 1976 and 1982 and then became the director of the 
highly respected Karmel Institute for Military and Social Research. 
Dr Gal, according to Miller, summarized the data about 
volunteering to serve in combat units from 1 994 through 1 996 and 
compared them with corresponding data of 1989. Dr Gal reported 
that whereas 60 per cent of secular youth in 1 989 wanted to serve 
in combat units, the average for the 1993 to 1996 period dropped 
to 48 per cent. Most of that decline occurred in 1995 and 1996, 
The decline was greatest in the secular kibbutzim, localities with 
large leftist majorities. The drop was from 83 per cent in 1989 to 
58 per cent in the 1993 to 1996 period. In comparison, among the 
religious youth the wish to volunteer to combat units remained 
constant at about 80 per cent during the same time. In religious 
kibbutzim, the figure went to 90 per cent. Before the Oslo agreement 
a large majority of religious youth entering the army considered a 



94 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

commander's order to be superior to any instruction from a rabbi. 
This had changed by 1996. Citing Dr Gal's summary, Miller 
wrote: "For a significant part of them [the religious youth] 
instruction by a rabbi had an equal and sometimes superior value 
than did an order from a commander." 

Publication of such findings disturbed many secular Jews. They 
attempted to acquire for their youth opportunities for army careers 
similar to those afforded religious youth. They advocated the estab- 
lishment of secular pre-military academies. During the first two years 
of the Netanyahu government, however, when the Oslo process 
stagnated, the numbers of secular youth who volunteered to serve 
in combat units increased to a point unparalleled since the 1970s. 
This adversely affected the attempted penetration into the army 
of the messianic religious right. Comprising only 6 to 7 per cent 
of the Israeli Jewish population, 4 the messianic religious right 
depended for its penetration upon the absence of motivation of other 
Jews to serve in combat units. 

Following Netanyahu's election in 1996, two factors motivated 
more Israeli Jewish youth to volunteer for combat units. Hie rising 
level of Arab hostility to Israel and to its elected government 
constituted the first factor. Some Arab leaders issued war threats. 
Most of Israel's Jewish youth considered all of this unjustified and 
responded in the traditional Israeli manner by advocating increased 
militarism. The second factor arose from the perception that 
Netanyahu's government was a new coalition of Jewish minorities, 
which as never before in the history of the state has allowed those 
previously excluded from important social opportunities and 
advancements to succeed. For the first time in Israeli history the 
defense minister and the chief of staff were Oriental Jews. The older, 
Labor-sympathizing elite members of the army opposed those 
appointments. This most likely encouraged young Israeli Jewish 
males who were not from Ashkenazi Labor-supporting families to 
seek careers as army officers. Most of these and other such young 
men previously thought that they would not be allowed to become 
career officers. Among the lower-income class of Israeli Jews an 
army career with its relatively high salaries is prestigious as well as 
economically attractive. Except for computer experts, doctors and 
other highly educated specialists, the way to a good career is to serve 
in a combat unit. 

Ironically, the collapse of the detested Oslo process adversely 
affected the religious settlers in their attempt to penetrate the 
Israeli army and in that way to achieve a commanding influence 
over Israeli policies. During most of the time that the Oslo process 
continued under the Rabin and Peres governments, the religious 
settlers' chances of penetrating the army increased. The religious 
settlers' chances of determining specific Israeli policies decreased 



THE NATURE OF GUSH EMUNIM SETTLEMENTS 95 

after Netanyahu and Likud came to power in 1996. Perhaps, this 
development provides us with an example of what is sometimes 
the fate of fanaticism: the fanatic group thrives when it perceives 
itself to be in danger or threatened by other parts of its own society. 
Conversely, when faced by a society that has become unified 
against what is believed to be an outside threat, the fanatic group 
is less able to penetrate major institutions such as the army and to 
influence long-range policy. 



The Real Significance of Baruch 
Goldstein 



The story of the massacre committed by Baruch Goldstein in the 
Patriarchs' Cave in Hebron on February 25, 1994, is well known. 
Goldstein entered the Muslim prayer hall and shot worshippers 
mostly in their backs, killing 29, including children, and wounding 
many more. In this chapter we shall not describe that massacre; 
rather we shall focus upon Goldstein's career prior to the massacre 
and upon the reactions of the Israeli government and fundamen- 
talist Jews to the massacre a short time after it occurred. This 
should provide a vivid illustration of Jewish fundamentalism. We 
shall extend our discussion of some details until the summer of 1998. 

One important background fact about Goldstein exemplifies 
the influence of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel: long before the 
massacre, Goldstein as an army physician repeatedly breached 
army discipline by refusing to treat Arabs, even those serving in 
the Israeli army. He was not punished, either while in active or 
reserve service, for his refusal because of intervention in his favor. 
Political commentators discussed this story in the Hebrew press 
even though not a single Israeli politician referred to it. This story 
deserves detailed exploration in our analysis of Jewish fundamen- 
talism. 

In his March 1, 1994, Yediot Ahronot article, Arych Kizel, a 
regular Davar correspondent, wrote that Goldstein, shortly after 
immigrating to Israel and as a conscript assigned to an artillery 
battalion in Lebanon as a doctor, refused to treat Gentiles. 
According to Kizel, Goldstein, after refusing to treat a wounded 
Arab, declared: "I am not willing to treat any non-Jew. I recognize 
as legitimate only two [religious] authorities: Maimonides and 
Kahane." Kizel further reported: 

Three Druze soldiers who served in Goldstein's battalion 
approached their commander and asked for another doctor to 
be stationed in their battalion, because they were afraid that 
Goldstein would refuse to treat them in case they were wounded. 
Because of their request Goldstein was reassigned to another 
battalion. He continued to serve as a military doctor both in the 

96 



THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF BARUCH GOLDSTEIN 97 

conscript army and in the reserves. After some years he was 
reassigned to the regional Hebron brigade of the central command 
where he thereafter served his reserve stint. Immediately after 
receiving this assignment, he told his commanders that his 
religious faith would make it impossible for him to treat wounded 
or ill Arabs; he asked to be reassigned elsewhere. His request was 
granted, and he was reassigned to a reserve unit serving in South 
Lebanon. 

Amir Oren, who subsequently became the military correspondent 
of HaaretZy provided the most complete story of Goldstein's relations 
with the Israeli army and the entire Israeli political establishment 
in his March 4 Davar article. According to Oren, after the 1984 
elections and the subsequent formation of the national unity 
government, then Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then Chief 
of Staff General Moshe Levy learned about Goldstein's refusal to 
treat non-Jews in Lebanon. Oren wrote: 

When Goldstein's refusal to treat non-Jewish patients became 
evident to his commanders, both the artillery corps and medical 
corps commanders quite naturally wanted to court-martial him 
and thus get rid of him. They took it for granted that this could 
be easily done, because Goldstein had graduated only from the 
army's course for medical officers. [Goldstein did not have 
combat officer training, which is normally a prerequisite for 
admission to the course for medical officers.] The two corps 
[commanders] also knew that Goldstein, while attending the 
army's course for medical officers, had become notorious as an 
anti-Arab extremist. 

According to other Hebrew press reports, some of Goldstein's 
trainee colleagues demanded that he be dismissed from the course; 
their demand was refused. Oren related: " [Goldstein] was already 
then protected by highly placed people in senior ministries. Those 
patrons requested that Goldstein be allowed to serve in Kiryat Arba 
rather than in a combat battalion." The situation then developed 
into "a bone of contention between the commander of the army's 
medical corps and its chief rabbi." Oren continued: 

In the end the issue of what to do with an officer who openly 
refused to obey orders by invoking Halacha has never been 
resolved, even if that officer openly refused to provide medical 
help both to Israeli soldiers and POWs. Can we avoid being 
stunned by the army's failure to court-martial Goldstein? Why 
was no order to court-martial him ever issued by the entire chain 
of the army command? That chain of command included the 



98 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

commander of the northern command, Reserve General Orri Or 
[a Labor MK and later in 1994 the chairman of the Knesset 
Committee for Foreign and Defense Affairs], and General Amos 
Yaron, who now is the commander of the manpower department. 
Why did they refuse to decide without first consulting the chief 
rabbi? The already embarrassed medical corps [commanders] 
now [after the massacre] admit that they were scared by publicity 
that might have propelled the religious parties and religious 
settlers' lobbies to make things more of a mess than ever before. 
The fear of publicity time after time prompted the army 
commanders to give in to all kinds of Goldsteins, rather than to 
denounce their views and court-martial them. 

Many sources corroborated Oren's hinting that this Goldstein 
situation did not constitute a unique case. The story told by Oren 
revealed the pervasiveness of the religious parties' influence in the 
Israeli army. Jewish orthodoxy's stance against non-Jews, as openly 
advocated by Goldstein's idolized leader. Rabbi Meir Kahane, 
was - and still is - an essential position held by the major religious 
parties. As such, this stance has had a strong impact upon the Israeli 
army. Had Rabin and the army commanders mentioned by Oren, 
moreover, felt no affinity whatsoever with Kahane's and Goldstein's 
views, they would not have given in to the religious parties with 
such abandon and thus sacrificed all consideration of military 
discipline. Israeli policies, directed towards Palestinians, other 
Middle East Arabs (perceived by Zionists as non-Jews) and people 
of other nations, are only explainable by assuming that they are based 
upon anti-Gentile feeling. The anti-Gentile feeling is strongest 
among the most religious Jews but exists as well in this secular 
milieu. This is the reason why support for Goldstein in 1984 and 
1985 had a sequel in the excuses by many Israeli leaders for the 
slaughter. These excuses were thinly disguised by mostly hypocritical 
expressions of shock. 

Goldstein's refusal to give proper medical treatment to non-Jews 
continued after he was transferred to Kiryat Arba. In his February 
27,1994 Yediot Ahronot article, Nahum Barnea wrote: 

The senior Israeli army officer in the Hebron area told me about 
his two encounters with Baruch Goldstein. The second time he 
saw him was in the company of Kach goons who were abusing 
President Ezer Weisman during his visit to Kiryat Arba. The first 
time he encountered Goldstein was after an Israeli soldier had 
wounded a local Arab in his legs. The Arab was brought to an 
army clinic for treatment, but Goldstein refused to treat him. 
Another army physician had to be summoned to substitute for 
Goldstein. The officer did not explain why Goldstein was 



THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF BARUCH GOLDSTEIN 99 

thereafter not demoted in rank but was rather allowed to keep 
performing his duties in the reserves. Incidentally, his misconduct 
also constituted a violation of the oath he had taken upon 
becoming a doctor, but for this the Israeli army cannot be 
blamed. 

Barnea made clear that the entire Israeli establishment, not just 
the army, was responsible for the leniency granted to Goldstein 
for his misdeeds. The leniency lasted until the massacre. Only after 
the massacre did the official line change to shock, coupled with 
assertions that Goldstein had acted alone. Thus, during the first 
three hours after the slaughter Rabin and his retinue insisted either 
that Goldstein was a psychopath or that he was a devoted doctor 
who happened to suffer a momentary derangement. Barnea 
reported: "Within hours a whole edifice of rationalization was 
built, according to which Goldstein had allegedly been under 
unbearable mental pressure, because he had to attend so many 
wounded and dead [persons], including Arabs." The men who 
propagated this lie knew that Goldstein had refused to treat Arabs. 
Barnea continued: "Thus, the Arabs were made guilty for what he 
could not avoid doing. The implication was that the Arabs assaulted 
him rather than the other way around and that he really acted for 
the benefit of the Arabs by letting them finally realize that Jewish 
blood could not be shed with impunity." This brazen lie was 
maintained as long as possible before being abandoned without 
apology. The propagation of such a lie reveals the influence of Jewish 
fundamentalism upon the secular parts of the Israeli establishment. 
Goldstein represented Jewish fundamentalism in the extreme. 
Some of the Gush Emunim leaders at the time of the massacre were 
only a bit less extreme. Barnea compared Goldstein's attitude 
toward non-Jews with that of Rabbi Levinger, the Gush Emunim 
leader whom he interviewed on the day of the massacre: 

Levinger was in a good mood; after arguing about how religious 
settlers should respond to the massacre, he shortly before had 
won the three hour debate at a session of the Kiryat Arba 
municipality. The secretary of the Council of Judea, Samara and 
Gaza District, Uri Ariel, [who became director of the prime 
minister's office in 1998] proposed condemning the massacre. 
Levinger staked his authority behind the proposal that the [Israeli] 
government should instead be condemned [for putting Goldstein] 
under unbearable mental pressure [propelling him to action]. 

In the discussion the terms "murder," "massacre" or "killing" 
were avoided; instead the terms used were "deed," "event" or 
"occurrence." The reason is that according to the Halacha the killing 



100 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

by a Jew of a non-Jew under any circumstances is not regarded as 
murder. It may be prohibited for other reasons, especially when it 
causes danger for Jews. In many cases the real feelings about a Jew 
murdering non-Jews, expressed in Israel with impunity, correspond 
to the law. Levinger told Barnea that the resolution "expresses in 
passing" the sorrow about dead Arabs "even though it emphasizes 
the responsibility of the government." When asked by Barnea 
whether he felt sorry, Levinger answered: "I am sorry not only about 
dead Arabs but also about dead flies." 

Goldstein on principle had refused to treat non-Jews for many 
years before the massacre. He worked as the municipal doctor of 
Kiryat Arba and treated Arabs only when he could not avoid doing 
so. Barnea quoted one of Goldstein's colleagues from the Kiryat 
Arba clinic who recalled that "whenever Goldstein arrived at a traffic 
accident spot and recognized that some of the injured were Arabs, 
he would attend to them but only until another doctor arrived. Then, 
he would stop treating them. 'This was his compromise between 
his doctor's oath and his ideology,' said his colleague." 

The Halacha enjoins precisely the behavior of Goldstein's refusing 
to attend non-Jews. The Halacha dictates that a pious Jewish 
doctor may treat Gentiles when his refusal to do so might be 
reported to the authorities and cause him or other Jews unpleas- 
antness. There is reason to believe that whenever doctors as pious 
as Goldstein were forced to treat Arabs they behaved as did 
Goldstein. In his previously cited Yediot Ahronot article, Arych 
Kizel added that the Israeli army found that Goldstein's conduct 
did not require any disciplinary measures. A Maariv correspondent 
wrote in his March 8, 1 994 article that Goldstein's military service 
record was sufficiently distinguished to earn him a ceremonial 
promotion from the rank of captain to that of major. The president 
of Israel would have officially awarded this promotion on April 14, 
1994, Israel's independence day. Only Goldstein's death, which 
occurred at the time of the massacre, prevented what would have 
been a revealing promotion. 

An even greater example of Jewish fundamentalism's influence 
upon the secular part of the Israeli establishment can be detected 
in the official arrangement of Goldstein's elaborate funeral at a time 
that the deliberate character of the massacre could not be denied. 
The establishment was affected by the fact, widely reported in the 
Hebrew press but given little place in the foreign press, that within 
two days of the massacre the walls of religious neighborhoods of 
west Jerusalem (and to a lesser extent of many other religious 
neighborhoods) were covered by posters extolling Goldstein's 
virtues and complaining that he did not manage to kill more Arabs. 
Children of religious settlers who came to Jerusalem to demonstrate 
sported buttons for months after the massacre that were inscribed: 



THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF BARUCH GOLDSTEIN 1 1 

"Dr Goldstein cured Israel's ills." Numerous concerts of Jewish 
religious music and other events often developed into demonstra- 
tions of tribute to Goldstein. The Hebrew press reported these 
incidents of public tribute in copious detail. No major politician 
protested against such celebrations. 

President Weizman expressed more extravagantly than others his 
sorrow for the massacre. Weizman, as reported by Uzi Benziman 
in his March 4, 1994 Haaretz article, was also engaged in lengthy 
and amiable negotiations with Goldstein's family and Kach 
comrades concerning a suitably honorable funeral for the murderer. 
Kiryat Arba settlers, many of whom had already declared themselves 
in favor of the mass murder in radio and television interviews and 
had lauded Goldstein as a martyr and holy man, demanded that 
General Yatom, the commander responsible for the Hebron area, 
allow the funeral cortege to parade through the city of Hebron, in 
order to be viewed by the Arabs even though a curfew existed. 
Yatom did not object outright to the demand but opposed it as 
something that could cause disorder. Tzvi Katzover, the mayor of 
Kiryat Arba and one of the most extreme leaders of the religious 
settlers, telephoned Weizman and threatened that the settlers 
would make a pogrom of Arabs if their demands were not met. 
Weizman responded by telephoning the chief of staff and asking 
why the army opposed the demand of the settlers. According to 
Benziman, Chief of Staff Barak answered: "The army was afraid 
that Arabs would desecrate Goldstein's tomb and carry away his 
corpse." In further negotiations involving Barak, Yatom, Rabin, 
Kach leaders and Kiryat Arba settlers, Weizman assumed the 
consistent position, as stated by Benziman, that "the army should 
pay respect to the desires and sensibilities of the settlers and of the 
Goldstein family." Ultimately, the negotiated decision was that a 
massively attended funeral cortege would take place in Jerusalem 
and that the police would close some of the busiest streets to the 
traffic in Goldstein's honor. Afterwards, the murderer would be 
buried in Kiryat Arba along the continuation of Kahane Avenue. 
According to Benziman, Kach leaders at first rejected this 
compromise. General Yatom had to approach the Kach leaders in 
person and beg them abjectly for their agreement, which he finally 
secured. Yatom also had to obtain consent from the notorious Kiryat 
Arba rabbi, Dov Lior. As reported in the March 4, 1994, issue of 
Yerushalaim Lior declared: "Since Goldstein did what he did in 
God's own name, he is to be regarded as a righteous man." 
Benziman explained the conduct of Weizman and his entourage: 
"After the fact the officials of the presidential mansion justify those 
goings on by the need to becalm the settlers' mood." After the 
funeral the army provided a guard of honor for Goldstein's tomb. 



102 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

The tomb became a pilgrimage site, not only for the religious 
settlers but also for delegations of pious Jews from all Israeli cities. 
The details of Goldstein's funeral as arranged through the office 
of President Weizman are significant. The facts below were taken 
mostly from the liana Baum and Tzvi Singer report, published in 
YediotAhronot on February, 28 1994. The funeral's first installment 
took place in Jerusalem. Among the estimated thousand mourners 
only a few were settlers from Kiryat Arba. Baum and Singer noted: 
"Without having met Goldstein personally, other mourners most 
of whom were Jerusalemites, were enthusiastic admirers of his 
deed. Many more were Yeshiva students. A large group represented 
the Chabad Hassidic movement, another group [consisted of anti- 
Zionist] Satmar Hassids." Other Hassidic movements were also well 
represented. (Not mentioned in the English-language press, 
Goldstein, a follower of Kahane, was also a follower of the 
Lubovitcher rabbi.) Baum and Singer continued: 

People awaiting the arrival of the corpse could be heard repeating: 
"What a hero! A righteous person! He did it on behalf of all of 
us." As usual in such encounters between religious Jews, all the 
participants tuned into a single, collective personality, united by 
their burning hatred of the Israeli media, the wicked Israeli 
government and, above all else, of anyone who dared to speak 
against the murder. 

Before the start of the procession well-known rabbis eulogized 
Goldstein and commended the murder. Rabbi Israel Ariel, for 
example, said: "The holy martyr, Baruch Goldstein, is from now 
on our intercessor in heaven. Goldstein did not act as an individual; 
he heard the cry of the land of Israel, which is being stolen from 
us day after day by the Muslims. He acted to relieve that cry of the 
land!" Toward the end of his eulogy Rabbi Ariel added: "The Jews 
will inherit the land not by any peace agreement but only by 
shedding blood." Ben-Shoshan Yeshu'a, a Jewish underground 
member, sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and amnestied 
after a few years spent under luxurious hotel conditions, lauded 
Goldstein and praised his action as an example for other Jews to 
follow. 

Border guards, police and the secret police protected the funeral 
cortege. Baum and Singer related: 

An entire unit of border guards precede the cortege; they were 
followed by young Kahane group members from Jerusalem who 
continuously yelled: "death to the Arabs." While obviously 
intending to find an Arab to kill, they could not spot one. 
Suddenly, a border guard noticed an Arab approaching the 



THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF BARUCH GOLDSTEIN 103 

cortege behind a low fence. The border guard immediately 
jumped over the fence, stopped the Arab and, using force, led 
him away to safety before anyone could notice. He [the border 
guard] thus saved him [the Arab] from a certain lynching. 

Behind the young Kahane group members was a coffin, which was 
surrounded by leaders of Kahane splinter groups, some of whom 
were wanted by the police. (The police and the secret police 
claimed later that they did not recognize these wanted leaders. The 
press correspondents easily recognized them.) Baum wrote: 

Tiran Pollak, a Kahane group leader wanted by the police, 
granted me an interview near the coffin. "Goldstein was not only 
righteous and holy," he told me, "but also a martyr. Since he is 
a martyr, his corpse will be buried without being washed, not in 
a shroud but in his clothes. The honorable Dr Goldstein has 
always refused to provide medical help to Arabs. Even during 
the war for Galilee he refused to treat any Arab, including those 
serving in the army. General Gad Navon, the chief rabbi of the 
Israeli army, at that time contacted Meir Kahane to ask him to 
persuade Baruch Goldstein of blessed memory to treat the Arabs. 
Kahane, however, refused to do so, because this would be against 
the Jewish religion." Suddenly the crowd began yelling: "Death 
to the journalists." I looked around and realized that I was the 
only journalist inside the crowd of mourners. I clung to Tiran 
Pollak and begged him to "please protect me." I was scared to 
death that the crowd might recognize me as a journalist. 

Military guards transported Goldstein's coffin to Kiryat Arba 
through Palestinian villages. A second round of eulogies was 
delivered in the hall of the Hesder Yeshiva Nir military institution 
by a motley of religious settlers, including the aforementioned 
Rabbi Dov Lior. Lior said: "Goldstein was full of love for fellow 
human beings. He dedicated himself to helping others." The terms 
"human beings" and "others" in the Halacha refer solely to Jews. 
Lior continued: "Goldstein could not continue to bear the 
humiliations and shame nowadays inflicted upon us; this was why 
he took action for no other reason than to sanctify the holy name 
of God." 

Tohay Hakah reported in Yerushalaim on March 4, 1994 upon 
another Lior eulogy of Goldstein a few days after the funeral. He 
recalled that Lior several years ago was excoriated in the press for 
recommending that medical experiments be performed on the live 
bodies of Arab terrorists. The outcry against this recommendation 
influenced the attorney general to prevent the otherwise guaranteed 
election of Lior to the Supreme Rabbinical Council of Israel. The 



104 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

attorney general, however, did not interfere with Lior's current 
rabbinical duties. The press reported upon other eulogies, delivered 
not only in religious settlements but in religious neighborhoods of 
many Israeli towns during the days immediately following the 
slaughter. The Hebrew press reportage of these eulogies suggests 
that the most virulent lauding of Goldstein and the calling for 
further massacres of Arabs occurred in the more homogeneous 
religious communities. 

The approval of Goldstein and his mass murder extended well 
beyond the perimeters of the religious Jewish community. Secular 
Israeli Jews, especially many of the youth, praised Goldstein and 
his deed. That Israeli youth were even more pleased by the massacre 
than were the adults is well-documented. The concern here 
nevertheless will be with the adult population, which in many ways 
is the most significant. According to Yuval Katz, who wrote an article 
published in the March 4, 1994 issue of Yerushalaim, it is not true 
that "with the exception of a few psychopaths, the entire nation 
and its politicians included, has resolutely condemned Dr Goldstein, 
even though, luckily for us, all major television networks in the world 
were last week still deluded by this untruth." Katz told how a 
popular television entertainer, Rafi Reshef, who was not controlled 
as tightly as the moderators in sedate panels, "could this week 
announce the findings of some reliable polls." Katz continued: 

It is important that according to one poll about 50 per cent of 
Kiryat Arba inhabitants approve of the massacre. More important 
is another poll that showed that about 50 per cent of Israeli Jews 
are more sympathetic toward the settlers after the massacre than 
they were before the massacre. The most important poll 
established that at least 50 per cent of Israeli Jews would approve 
of the massacre, provided that it was not referred to as a massacre 
but rather as a "Patriarch's Cave operation," a nice-sounding term 
already being used by religious settlers. 

Katz reported that the politicians and academics interviewed by 
Reshef failed to grasp the significance of those findings. Attributing 
them to a chance occurrence, they refused to comment upon them. 
He tended to excuse them: 

I presume that those busy public figures, along with everybody 
else who this week exerted himself to speak in the name of the 
entire nation simply did not have time to walk the streets in the 
last days. Yet, with the exception of the wealthiest neighborhoods, 
people could be seen smiling merrily when talking about the 
massacre. The stock popular comment was: "Sure, Goldstein is 



THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF BARUCH GOLDSTEIN 105 

to be blamed. He could have escaped with ease and have done 
the same in four other mosques, but he didn't." 

The impression of many other Israelis corresponded to the Reshef 
findings. People were rather evenly divided into two categories: in 
one category the people were vociferous in cheering the slaughter; 
in the other category the people mostly remained silent and 
condemned the massacre only if encouraged to do so. Katz 
continued: 

Therefore, this was the right time to draw finally the obvious 
conclusion that we, the Jews, are not any more sensitive or 
merciful than are the Gentiles. Many Jews have been programmed 
by the same racist computer program that is shaping the majority 
of the world's nations. We have to acknowledge that our supposed 
advancement in progressive beliefs and democracy have failed 
to affect the archaic forms of Jewish tribalism. Those who still 
delude themselves that Jews might be different than [people of] 
other nations should now know better. The spree of bullets from 
Goldstein's gun was for them an occasion to learn something. 

The wise comments of Katz were not heeded in Israel except by a 
minority. It may be that had more Israeli Jews paid attention and 
heeded the words of Katz the murder of Yitzhak Rabin would have 
been averted. In the view of this book's authors, the important 
difference between the real shock caused by Rabin's murder and 
the lack of shock caused by Goldstein's massacre lies in the fact 
that Goldstein's victims were non-Jews. 

Although less direct than Katz, many other commentators in the 
Israeli Hebrew press have focused upon that part of the Israeli Jewish 
public who were shocked by the rejoicing over the massacre of 
innocent people and disturbed by the apologia offered by many 
politicians and public figures. Some of those people who were 
shocked described the backers of and apologists for Goldstein as 
"Nazis" or "Nazi-like." These same people, who can be considered 
moderate hawks rather than Zionist doves, had before the massacre 
reacted negatively to the use by a few Israeli Jewish critics of such 
terminology in describing a part of the Israeli Jewish population. 
These "moderate hawks" had habitually labelled many Arab orga- 
nizations, such as the Abu Nidal group and the Popular Front for 
the Liberation of Palestine, "Nazi" or "Nazi-like." They did not 
repudiate their views about these Arab organizations; they merely 
concluded that some Jewish individuals and organizations also 
merit being so labelled on equal terms with some Arabs. The 
prestigious journalist, Teddy Preuss, reflected upon all of this in 



106 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

a most severe but substantially representative manner in his 
March 4, 1994 Davar article: 

Compared to the giant-scale mass murderers of Auschwitz, 
Goldstein was certainly a petty murderer. His recorded statements 
and those of his comrades, however, prove that they were 
perfectly willing to exterminate at least two million Palestinians 
at an opportune moment. This makes Dr Goldstein comparable 
to Dr Mengele; the same holds true for anyone saying that he 
[or she] would welcome more of such Purim holiday celebrations. 
[The massacre occurred on that holiday.] Let us not devalue 
Goldstein by comparing him with an inquisitor or a Muslim Jihad 
fighter. Whenever an infidel was ready to convert to either 
Christianity or Islam, an inquisitor or Muslim Jihad fighter 
would, as a rule, spare his life. Goldstein and his admirers are 
not interested in converting Arabs to Judaism. As their statements 
abundantly testify, they see the Arabs as nothing more than 
disease-spreading rats, lice or other loathsome creatures; this is 
exactly how the Nazis believed that the Aryan race alone had 
laudable qualities that were inheritable but that could become 
polluted by sheer contact with dirty and morbid Jews. Kahane, 
who learned nothing from the Nuremberg Laws, had exactly the 
same notions about the Arabs. 

Really, Kahane had the same notions about non-Jews. Although 
less scathing than Preuss, other Israeli commentators suggested the 
same consideration. 

In contrast to the above criticism were the even more numerous 
comments about the harm caused to Israeli Jews by the Goldstein 
massacre. The lament in the February 28, 1994 Haaretz Economic 
Supplement, for example, was headlined: "Goldstein's massacre 
caused distress on the Tel-Aviv stock market." Other papers voiced 
similar sentiments. More importantly, Shimon Peres and other 
senior dovish politicians presented a typical political apologia in 
their criticism of the massacre, which they delivered in a meeting 
of the Knesset Committee for Foreign and Defense Affairs. Specific 
detail of this meeting is included below to illustrate the real opinions 
of most Israeli politicians and their general disregard of a major 
massacre of non-Jews except as it affected the interests of Israel and 
its allies. A March 8, 1994 Haaretz article reported the discussion 
at this meeting. Peres wasted no time expressing heartfelt shock 
about the murdered Palestinians but spoke instead about the harm 
to Israel caused by the "pictures of corpses that the entire world 
could watch." Peres did not condemn the armed religious settlers 
for their public rejoicing and shooting; he deplored the harm 
caused to Israel and to themselves by the pictures of them. As quoted 



THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF BARUCH GOLDSTEIN 107 

in HaaretZy Peres added: "The events in Hebron also adversely 
affected the interests of President Mubarak and King Hussein, and 
even more of the PLO and its leadership." Peres then went on to 
say: "We have had Jewish Kibbutzim located in the midst of Arab- 
inhabited areas for 80 years, and I cannot recall a single instance 
of such a slaughter nor of firing at Arab buses nor of maiming Arab 
mayors." At this point in the discussion senior Likud politicians 
interpolated Peres. As reported in Haaretz: 

The first to interrupt Peres' speech was Sharon. "Kibbutzim are 
dear to me no less than to you, but there have been many cases 
when somebody from a kibbutz would go out to murder Arabs." 
Peres answered: "The two cases are not comparable, because in 
the case under discussion the murderer was supported by a 
whole group of followers." Benny Begin [answered]: "Why are 
you always talking in generalities?" Peres [responded] : "I am not. 
I only maintain that in order to pursue the peace process we need 
the PLO as a partner, and now this partnership is in straits and 
we need to help the PLO." Sharon [answered]: "You mean that 
we should help that murderer [Arafat]." Peres, angrily banging 
the table [responded]: "And what about Egyptians with whom 
you, Likud, made peace? Didn't Egyptians murder Jews? Really. 
What's the difference between war and terrorism? Does it make 
any difference how 16,000 of our soldiers were killed? Everywhere, 
states are making deals with terror organizations." Netanyahu 
[spoke] : "No state exists that has made a deal with an organization 
still committed to its destruction. The PLO has not rescinded 
the Palestinian Covenant. You are dwelling upon the crime 
committed in Hebron not in order to reassure people [Jews] living 
there but in order to advance your plan to establish a Palestinian 
state." Peres [answered] : "It is you and your plans that will lead 
to the formation of a Palestinian state, because it is you, the Likud, 
that created the PLO in Madrid. It is you who conceived the 
autonomy in the first place, contrary to all our [previously 
pursued] aims." Netanyahu [stated] : "Autonomy is not the same 
thing as state." Peres [continued]: "But it is Sharon who is first 
to say that autonomy is bound to lead to a Palestinian state . . . 
I am not less steadfast than are you; this is why I have elaborated 
the most restrictive possible interpretation of autonomy in Oslo, 
in relation to its territory, power and authorities. This is why we 
are against international observers and consent only to the 
temporary presence of representatives from the countries 
contributing money. And regarding the Palestinian Covenant, 
they have renounced it publicly, but they find it difficult to 
convene their representative bodies to ratify this renunciation." 
Begin [answered]: "Let me remind you that the PLO has not 



108 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

undertaken publicly to rescind the Palestinian Covenant." Peres 
[answered] : "I don't give a damn about you and/or your legalistic 
verbiage! Arafat said that he renounced the Palestinian Covenant 
and for me Arafat is the PLO." 

The above passage shows, among other things, that knowledge of 
Israeli politics and more generally Jewish affairs can be best attained 
by using the original sources of what Jews say among themselves. 

The continuing process of Goldstein's elevation to the rank of 
saint by groups of Israeli Jews and his worship as such began soon 
after the massacre. In his February 28, 1994 Haareiz article, 
Shmuel Rosner recounted a sermon delivered on the Sabbath after 
the massacre by Rabbi Goren, the former chief military rabbi and 
chief rabbi of Israel. Rosner wrote: "Goren's conclusion was that 
next time an authorization would be needed for a massacre. The 
authorization should come from the community 'not from the 
[present] illegal government.'" Rosner observed that the audience 
liked Goren's sermon but would have preferred, as would numerous 
other Israeli Jews, that the army rather than Goldstein had 
committed the massacre. 

In the days and weeks after the massacre, appreciation of 
Goldstein and his deed spread throughout the Israeli religious 
community and among its supporters in the United States. The 
initial expressions of that appreciation may be most significant, 
because they were spontaneous and because they illustrated the 
influence, even beyond the messianic community, of an ideology 
that approved indiscriminate killing of Gentiles by Jews. Avirama 
Golan described in her February 28, 1 994 Haaretz article how news 
about Goldstein on the day of the massacre became known in the 
overwhelmingly Haredi city of Bnei Brak and how the next day a 
religious Jewish crowd reacted with praise of Goldstein during a 
mass entertainment event. The massacre occurred on Purim, the 
festival during which religious Jews are merry and sometimes drink 
alcoholic beverages to the point of drunkenness. Bnei Brak streets 
were filled to capacity by joyful celebrants that day; a special 
security force, comprised of religious veterans of the Israeli army's 
elite units, had been hired by the mayor to enforce order and 
modesty. Golan described the response in the streets to the 
spreading news of the massacre: 

A hired security guard, with a huge gun in his belt, a black 
skullcap on his head, and special insignia of "Bnei Brak Security 
Team" on his chest, stared at a fundraising stall. Then he noticed 
his pal across the street. "A Purim miracle, I'm telling you, 
Purim miracle," he shouted at the top of his voice. "That holy 
man did something great. 52 Arabs at one stroke." However, the 



THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF BARUCH GOLDSTEIN 109 

fundraiser, a slim yeshiva student, was skeptical. "That's just 
impossible," he said. "Those must be just stories." But the 
people standing around confirmed the news. "It was on the 
radio," they said. "Where?" "In the Patriarchs' Cave in Hebron." 
The yeshiva student turned pale. "I don't mind the Arabs, but 
it is us who will pay the price," he said. "What are you talking 
about?" the security guard shouted, "It's a Purim miracle. God 
has helped." People around the stall formed two groups: on the 
one hand those who said that God Himself ordained a well- 
deserved punishment of the Arabs; on the other, those who 
remained silent throughout. The fundraiser went on writing 
receipts and shaking his head. "Oh," he said, "nothing really 
happened." The Bnei Brak functionary's wife said that dozens 
of visitors who, as is customary on Purim, visited their home that 
morning, were shocked. "By the murder?" somebody asked. 
"To tell you the truth, not exactly by the murder. About what 
may now happen to the Jews." 

Jumping to the evening of the next day, Golan continued: "Masses 
of religious Jews were expected to come to Yad Eliahu Stadium 
[the biggest in Israel] to be entertained by the famous religious jazz 
singer, Mordechai Ben-David. For months before the massacre, 
this evening had been planned as a demonstration intended to save 
the land of Israel from Rabin, Peres and other Jewish infidels." All 
factions of the religious community were represented in the crowd. 
Golan again continued: 

The first part of the evening passed quietly and even rather 
dully. Only after the intermission, some minutes before the star 
of the evening was to appear, the crowd went on a rampage. The 
master of the ceremony called upon a Kiryat Arba resident to 
address the crowd. He started by praising that "righteous and 
holy physician, Dr Goldstein, who rendered us a sacred service 
and got martyred in the process." The speaker called upon the 
audience to mourn him. By and large, the audience remained 
silent. Some applauded. Only a single individual, wearing a 
small beard and a knitted skullcap, stood up and yelled: "I 
disagree; that was a cold-blooded murder!" Instantly he was 
physically assaulted. Many in the crowd yelled: "Kick the infidel 
out of the hall!" The tempers calmed down only when Ben-David 
finally appeared on the stage and began singing. Outside after 
the performance some people reminisced that more Gentiles had 
been killed by the Jews in Susa during the original Purim [75,000] . 
They, therefore, reasoned that this was the right time to kill a 
comparable number of Gentiles in the holy land. 



110 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

No wonder that Dov Halvertal, a member of the almost defunct 
faction of the NRP doves, told Golan: "This Purim joy epitomizes 
the moral collapse of religious Zionism . . . If religious Zionism does 
not undertake soul-searching right now, I doubt if it will ever have 
another opportunity." 

Subsequent developments showed that neither the religious 
Zionists nor other factions within the Jewish religious community 
were or are in any mood to engage in soul-searching. On the 
contrary, the appreciation of Goldstein and the feeling that Jews 
have a right and duty to kill Gentiles who live in the land of Israel 
are growing. In his March 23, 1994 Haaretz article, Nadav Shraggai 
discussed the visit of a delegation of all Israeli branches of the Bnei 
Akiva, the large youth movement affiliated with the NRP, to Kiryat 
Arba and Hebron, which was then under a curfew selectively 
applied to its Arab inhabitants. The purpose of this visit was to 
"encourage Jewish settlers." Yossi Leibowitz, a settler leader from 
Hebron, as described by Shraggai, "beaming with satisfaction 
visible in his face asked the delegation: 'Have you already visited 
the tomb of holy Rabbi Doctor Goldstein?' " The visitors rejected 
the suggestion but did not utter one word of rebuke to the 
worshippers of the new saint. They then had to withstand a flurry 
of abuse from their local Bnei Akiva comrades who argued that their 
refusal to pay homage to Goldstein amounted to support of the left. 
Local rabbis affiliated with the NRP seconded the denunciation. 
Rabbi Shimon Ben-Zion, a senior teacher in the local Hesder 
Yeshiva and hence a state employee, delivered a eulogy of Goldstein 
and of what he called "his act." He added: "[If the government] 
keeps bowing low to Arabs, all of whom are murderers, [and if] 
the Jews fail to establish a firm rule over the land of Israel [there 
will be] more Goldsteins." Most visitors made counter-arguments; 
they were nevertheless influenced by their hosts' arguments; they 
came to believe that their duty to support the Jewish settlers in 
Hebron was more important than any minor disagreements about 
Goldstein's sainthood. 

Gabby Baron reported in the March 16, 1994 Yediot Ahronot: 

Deputy Minister of Education Mikha Goldman was physically 
assaulted yesterday after delivering a welcoming speech at a 
meeting of Jerusalem's district teachers in the Binyaney Ha'umah 
hall in that city. He managed to avoid being hurt. His speech 
infuriated dozens of religious teachers, because he talked about 
his visit to Kiryat Arba and the shock he experienced when 
finding how enthused the religious school children were by the 
massacre in the Cave of the Patriarchs. A virtual riot erupted in 
the hall, which was filled by about 5000 Jerusalem district 
teachers, as soon as he spoke about it. Dozens of religious 



THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF BARUCH GOLDSTEIN 1 1 1 

teachers jumped onto the podium. A female teacher who managed 
to reach it [the podium] picked up a flowerpot from the speaker's 
table; she was ready to hurl it at him when at the last moment 
she balked. All the religious teachers assembled in rage in front 
of the podium and decried the deputy minister as "a fascist." 
Goldman insisted upon continuing his speech. When he ended, 
he had to leave the building under heavy guard, thanks to which 
the pursuing teachers were unable to injure him. 

Neither Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein nor Prime Minister 
Rabin uttered a single word in condemnation of the incident. 

On April 5, 1994, Israeli radio reported that Rabbi Shimon 
Ben-Zion had distributed a leaflet among the Kiryat Arba and 
Hebron settlers requesting financial contributions for a book about 
"Saint Baruch Goldstein." On April 6, Yediot Ahronot published 
the text. The book refers to Goldstein as "Rabbi Doctor Baruch 
Goldstein of blessed memory, let the Lord avenge his blood." The 
Kiryat Arba municipal council backed the ideas of Ben-Zion. In 
his April 5, 1994 Haaretz article, Amnon Barzilay reported that two 
days earlier Gush Emunim leaders, including Mayor Benny 
Katzover, had an amicable talk with Prime Minister Rabin who 
apologized to them for his past outbursts against them and promised 
never to repeat them. (The outbursts anyway were intended for 
consumption of the Israeli "doves," Arafat and the Western media.) 
The two sides agreed to cooperate closely in the future. Thus, Rabin 
understandably found it ill-advised to say anything about Rabbi 
Ben-Zion's idea. 

About one year later the Kiryat Arba municipality obtained a 
permit from the Civil Administration of the Occupied Territories 
to build a large and sumptuous memorial on Goldstein's tomb, 
which has become a place of pilgrimage. Thousands of Jews from 
all Israeli cities, and even more from the United States and France, 
have come to light candles and pray for the intercession of "holy 
saint and martyr," now in a special section of paradise close to God 
and able to obtain for them various benefits, such as cures for 
diseases from which they suffer, or to grant them male offspring. 
The visitors have donated money for Goldstein's comrades. No 
Orthodox rabbi has criticized this. 

The well-publicized worship of the new saint has brought 
increasing opposition from secular Jews. (The opposition of 
Palestinians, especially those living in Hebron, to the hero-worship 
of Goldstein and to the monument to this mass murderer are not 
within the scope of this book but should be obvious.) After a long 
campaign in the press, Knesset members passed a piece of legislation 
in May, 1 998, that prohibited the building of monuments for mass 
murderers and ordering removal of existing ones. The Israeli army 



112 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

should have removed the monument immediately after passage of 
the law in the Knesset. Instead army spokesmen announced that 
negotiations over the Goldstein monument were on-going with 
Goldstein's family and local rabbis. 

The book in praise of Goldstein, titled Blessed the Male, was 
published in 1995 and sold in many editions. Most of the readers 
were from the religious public. The book contained eulogies of 
Goldstein and halachic justifications for the right of every Jew to 
kill non-Jews. Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh, the then head of the 
Kever Yosef (tomb of Joseph) Yeshiva, located on the outskirts of 
Nablus, wrote one chapter of that book. The essence of Rabbi 
Ginsburgh's views were presented in Chapter 4. His and other such 
ideologies., even if expressed more cautiously, explain Goldstein's 
massacre, the considerable support Goldstein and later his followers 
have received from religious Jews and the ambiguous attitude of 
Israeli governments to this crime. Those people, especially 
Germans, who were silent and did not condemn Nazi ideology 
before Hitler came to power are also, at least in a moral sense, guilty 
for the terrible consequences that followed. Similarly, those who 
are silent and do not condemn Jewish Nazism, as exemplified by 
the ideologies of Goldstein and Ginsburgh, especially if they are 
Jews, are guilty of the terrible consequences that may yet develop 
as a result of their silence. 



The Religious Background of Rabin's 
Assassination 



Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered for religious reasons. 
The murderer and his sympathizers were and still are convinced 
that the killing was dictated by God and was therefore a 
commandment of Judaism. Comprehensive surveys, published in 
the Hebrew press, of people in religious neighborhoods and 
especially religious settlements indicated great sympathy for the 
murder. The polarization of approval and disapproval in the Israeli 
Jewish community over the killing of the prime minister of the 
Jewish state has increased since the time of the murder. Many 
Israeli Jews, significant numbers of Jews living outside Israel and 
most non-Jews do not possess sufficient knowledge of Jewish 
history and religion to put this kind of an assassination into its 
proper context. In this chapter we shall attempt to provide the 
historical-religious background necessary for an understanding of 
the Rabin assassination. 

Jewish history has been replete with religious civil wars or 
rebellions accompanied by civil wars in which horrifying assassi- 
nations were committed. The Great Rebellion (ad 66-73) of Jews 
against the Romans that culminated in the destruction of the 
Second Temple and in mass suicide in Masada is exemplary. The 
defenders of Masada were, as many present-day visitors to the 
Masada site are seemingly unaware, a band of assassins called 
Sikarikin, a name taken from the word for a short sword that group 
members hid under their robes and used to kill their Jewish 
opponents in crowds of people. In the Talmud the word means 
terrorists or robbers and is applied only to Jews. Neither Masada 
nor this particular group are mentioned in the Talmud or in any 
part of the traditional writing preserved by Jews. Actually the 
Sikarikin were an ancient Jewish analogue to modern-day terrorists. 
Their suicide activity resembled the terrorist behavior of the suicide 
bombers who are so abhorred in the state of Israel. The Sikarikin 
escaped to Masada not from the Romans but from their Jewish 
brethren. Shortly after the rebellion against the Romans began, the 
Roman army that was advancing to Jerusalem was initially defeated 
and had to withdraw. The Sikarikin attempted forcefully to establish 

113 



114 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

their leader, Menahem, as absolute king. The Jews of Jerusalem 
then attacked and defeated the Sikarikin in the temple itself, killing 
most of them including Menahem. The remaining Sikarikin escaped 
to Masada where they stayed during the rebellion; they did not fight 
the Romans but instead robbed neighboring Jewish villages. Three 
years after the Sikarikin defeat, the Roman army, commanded by 
Titus, approached Jerusalem for the final onslaught. (Titus' chief 
of staff, Tiberius Julius Alexander, was a Jew, the nephew of the 
great philosopher, Philo.) Jerusalem was divided into three parts; 
each part was under the command of a different leader; the leaders 
had already been fighting with one another for two years. The 
Roman Empire at that time was then concerned about a civil war. 
One of the leaders, Eliezer the Priest, commanded the Temple and 
used it as his stronghold. On Passover eve in the year AD 70, 
another rebel leader, Yohanan of Gush Halav, utilized brilliant 
strategy to overcome Eliezer. He dressed his soldiers as pious 
pilgrims who seemed to be coming to the temple for the Passover 
sacrifice. After being admitted to the temple by the gullible Eliezer 
without a body search, they, after guessing correctly that Eliezer 
and his men would not carry arms in a place so holy, pulled out 
their swords and slaughtered all their opponents. The well-known 
Masada terrorists became Jewish and Israeli national heroes, as did 
the Jerusalem Jews who killed most of the Sikarikin. Yohanan of 
Gush Halav also became a national hero, but Eliezer the Priest, 
perhaps because he was killed by Jews, was completely forgotten. 
In these and in many similar incidents in Jewish history, killing was 
allegedly committed for the greater glory of God. Yigal Amir, 
Rabin's assassin, made such an allegation. 

The violence between Jews did not end with the loss of Jewish 
independence and the ceasing of Jewish rebellions. (The last Jewish 
rebellion occurred in ad 614.) From the Middle Ages until the 
advent of the modern state, Jewish communities enjoyed a great 
degree of autonomy. The rabbis who headed and had the authority 
in these communities were most often able to persecute Jews 
mercilessly. The rabbis persecuted Jews who committed religious 
sins and even more harshly persecuted Jews who informed upon 
other Jews to non-Jews or in other ways harmed Jewish interests. 
The rabbis generally tolerated violence committed by some Jews 
against other Jews, especially against women, so long as the Jewish 
religion and their own interests were not harmed. The relevancy 
of this aspect of Jewish history to the Rabin murder is obvious. The 
assassin, Yigal Amir, is a talmudic scholar who was trained in a 
yeshiva that inculcated its students to believe that this violence 
committed by rabbis over a lengthy time period was in accordance 
with God's word. 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 115 

Long before Rabin's assassination, scholarly studies of Jewish 
history, written in Hebrew, recorded the violence mentioned above. 
The assassination aroused so much public interest in this topic that 
the Hebrew press published numerous articles either written by or 
resulting from interviews with distinguished Israeli scholars. Rami 
Rosen's November 15, 1996 Haaretz Magazine article, titled 
"History of a Denial," is an excellent and representative example. 
Although Rosen interviewed several distinguished historians, he 
relied primarily upon the views of Professor Yisrael Bartal, the head 
of the department of Jewish history at the Hebrew University in 
Jerusalem. Bartal began his statement: 

Zionism has described the diaspora Jews as weak people who 
desire peace and abhor every form of violence. It is astonishing 
to discover that orthodox Jews are also providing similar 
descriptions. They describe past Jewish society as one not 
interested in anything other than the Halacha and the fulfillment 
of the commandments. The entire Jewish literature produced in 
eastern Europe, however, teaches us that the reverse is true. Even 
in the nineteenth century the descriptions of how Jews lived are 
filled with violent battles that often took place in the synagogues, 
of Jews beating other Jews in the streets or spitting on them, of 
the frequent cases of pulling out of beards and of numbers of 
murders. 

Citing the authorities interviewed, Rosen explained that many 
murders were committed for religious reasons. It was usual in 
some Hassidic circles until the last quarter of the nineteenth century 
to attack and often to murder Jews who had reform religious 
tendencies, even if small ones. These Hassidic Jews also attacked 
one another because of frequent quarrels between different holy 
rabbis over spheres of influence, money and prestige. After having 
learned the opinions of the best Israeli scholars, Rosen asked: 

Were Yigal Amir, Baruch Goldstein, Yonah Avrushmi [who 
threw a hand grenade into a Peace Now demonstration, killing 
one and wounding a few people] and Ami Poper [who killed seven 
innocent Palestinian workers and was adopted as a great hero 
by extremists] parts of the Jewish tradition? Is it only by chance 
that Baruch Goldstein massacred his victims on the Purim 
holiday? 

Rosen answered his own question: 

A check of main facts of the [Jewish] historiography of the last 
1500 years shows that the picture is different from the one 



116 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

previously shown to us. It includes massacres of Christians [by 
Jews]; mock repetitions of the crucifixion of Jesus that usually 
took place on Purim; cruel murders within the family; liquidation 
of informers, often done for religious reasons by secret rabbinical 
courts, which issued a sentence of "pursuer" and appointed 
secret executioners; assassinations of adulterous women in 
synagogues and/or the cutting of their [the women's] noses by 
command of the rabbis. 

Rosen included in his long article many well-documented cases of 
massacres of Christians and mock repetitions of the crucifixion of 
Jesus on Purim, most of which occurred either in the late ancient 
period or in the Middle Ages. (Some isolated cases occurred in 
sixteenth-century Poland.) From the eleventh century until the 
nineteenth century, Ashkenazi Jews were more violent and fanatical 
than were the Oriental Jews, although the fanaticism of the Spanish 
Jews during both Muslim and Christian rule was exceptional. 
Jewish historians have not yet determined the causes of those 
differences. The influence of Christian fanaticism on the Jews may 
have been a cause. The Jews who lived in Spain may have been 
influenced by the fact that Muslim Spain was more fanatical than 
the rest of the Muslim world. 

The violence perpetrated against women for centuries and other 
aspects of internal group violence influenced the developing 
character of traditional Jewish society. This character set the 
contextual framework for Rabin's assassination. Citing a few case 
examples here may further understanding of this character. Rabbi 
Simha Asaf s book. The Punishments After the Talmud Was Finalized: 
Materials for the History of Hebrew Law (Jerusalem, 1922) is a 
marvelous source of information. Rabbi Asaf, who subsequently 
became a professor at the Hebrew University and in 1948 was one 
of the first nine judges of the Israeli Supreme Court, was a distin- 
guished scholar and a religious Jew. Convinced that a Jewish state 
would be established, he wrote his book in order to show that a 
sufficient number of legal cases existed in the history of punishments 
inflicted by Jewish religious courts to provide precedents. 

Although some variances in halachic interpretation and in practice 
existed, violence against women, as defined in any reasonable and 
modern way, was routinely practiced for centuries in most Jewish 
communities. Some rabbis allowed the Jewish husband to beat his 
wife when she disobeyed him. Other rabbis limited this "right" by 
requiring that, prior to the beating, a rabbinical court, after 
considering the husband's complaint, had to issue an order. 
Presumably as an extension of this husband's right, rabbinical 
courts in Spain ordered the cruellest punishment for Jewish women 
suspected of fornication, prostitution and adultery and a much 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 117 

lighter punishment for Jewish male fornicators. In the early 
fourteenth century a local Jewish notable asked the famous Spanish 
rabbi, Rabenu 1 Asher, whether it was correct punishment to cut 
the nose of a Jewish widow, made pregnant by a Muslim. The 
notable added that, although the evidence itself was not conclusive, 
the pregnancy was well-known in the city. Rabenu Asher answered: 
"You have decided beautifully to cut her nose in order that those 
committing adultery with her will find her ugly, but let this be done 
suddenly so that she will not become an apostate [before her nose 
is cut]" (Asaf, p. 69). In a case wherein a male fornicated with 
Muslim women, Rabbi Yehuda, the son of Rabenu Asher, ordered 
only excommunication or imprisonment (Asaf, p. 78). This same 
punishment was prescribed when male Jews owned a Muslim 
female slave with whom other male Jews fornicated. The rabbis 
regarded the commission of adultery of Jewish women with Jewish 
men as less serious. In such a case one rabbi ordered that the 
woman's hair be shorn and that she be officially excommunicated 
in the synagogue in the presence of other women (Asaf, p. 87). The 
Sephardic Jews of Jerusalem sheared women's hair as punishment 
for such sexual sins still in the nineteenth century. In some recorded 
cases the punishment was based upon the belief that the sexual sins 
of Jews, especially those committed by women, prevented rain 
from falling. The rabbis supposed that the rain would fall if Jewish 
women sinners were punished. Enlightened Hebrew press 
commentators at the time humorously noted that the rain did not 
fall even after women had been punished. In places where more 
modern attitudes prevailed, however, Spanish and Portuguese 
Jews desisted from these ancestral customs. Asaf quotes the elders 
of the Portuguese Jewish community in Hamburg in the late 
seventeenth century who, although having publicly accused 
members of their community of having intimate relations with 
non-Jewish women, expressed their regret that they could not 
punish them. Asaf pointed to the reason: "In every such case they 
must get permission from the town judges" (p. 95). The Jewish 
community, Asaf wrote, could only inflict religious sanctions, such 
as telling two brothers that they could not enter the synagogue until 
they had dismissed a notorious servant from their home (p. 97). 
The Jewish rabbinical authorities in some eastern parts of Europe 
could inflict somewhat tougher punishments. These punishments, 
however, were less severe than those that had been imposed in Spain. 
The heads of the Jewish community in Prague decided in 1 6 1 2 that 
all Jewish prostitutes had to leave the town by a certain date or be 
branded after that date with a hot iron (Asaf, p. 114). The 
prostitutes' main offence was that they were seen drinking non- 
kosher wine with some unnamed notables of the community. The 
most tolerant communities were those in Italy who, as Asaf recorded. 



118 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

gave full encouragement to the prostitutes, because they saved 
"bachelors and fools from the worse sins of adultery or of 
cohabitation with non- Jewish women." 

In his previously mentioned article, Rosen recorded research of 
new Jewish historians showing that Italian Jews copied the 
Renaissance custom according to which a husband or brother can 
kill his wife or sister with impunity if he suspects her of adultery. 
To remove the resultant blemish upon the honor of an insulted 
husband, Jews committed many of these murders in the synagogue 
during prayer in order to obtain publicity. A Jew, named Ovadia, 
from Spoleto, for instance, murdered his wife in the synagogue and, 
after explaining his reasons, received no punishment. The Italian 
authorities put Ovadia on trial and fined him, but the Jews did not 
believe he had done anything wrong. Soon thereafter, he remarried 
another Jewish woman. Brothers in other cases murdered suspected 
women. Referring to his research, Rosen cited one such case in 
Ferrara in the mid-sixteenth century. The murderer brother worked 
for a charity organization that was affiliated with the congregation; 
he was able to continue in his job after the murder. Rosen 
determined and reported that in such cases the rabbis usually did 
not react. 

Jewish autonomy before the rise of the modern nation state 
allowed rabbis to engage in a wide spectrum of persecution, of which 
violence against women was but one category. The rabbis employed 
various types of violence against Jews who committed religious or 
other sins. Jewish fundamentalists, wanting to revive a situation that 
existed before the hated modern influences allegedly corrupted the 
Jews, emphasized this violence. The centrality of violence in the 
Halacha played an important role in the development of Orthodox 
Judaism. Orthodox Judaism historically had a double system of law. 
There was, on the one side, a more normal system of law, but there 
was, on the other side, been a more arbitrary system of law employed 
in emergencies. These emergency situations most often occurred 
when rabbis had great communal power. The rabbis, alleging that 
heresy and infidelity were at dangerously high levels, often 
suspended the normal system of laws, at least in the area of guarding 
the beliefs of the community, and used emergency powers to avert 
God's wrath. A relevant example for our study concerns the death 
penalty. In the normal system of law, the halachic application of 
the death punishment against a Jew was almost impossible to carry 
out, as opposed to its much easier application against a non-Jew. 
Even inflicting less severe punishment against Jews, such as thirty- 
nine lashes, was difficult. The normal talmudic alternative to the 
death penalty for Jews who killed other Jews was release of the Jewish 
murderer without further punishment. The Talmud posits another 
alternative. This alternative, as described by Maimonides in his 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 119 

commentary. Laws of the Murderer and of Taking Precautions^ chapter 
4, rule 8, is that Jewish murderers, absolved of the death punishment 
by a rabbinical court, could be "put into a small cell and given first 
only a small amount of bread and water until their intestines 
narrowed and then [fed] barley so that their bellies would burst 
because of the illness." 

Rabbinical judges experienced difficulty in inflicting punishment 
when Jewish autonomy was limited by secular authorities. Only 
those rabbinical judges who were appointed by what was called 
"laying of hands," 2 for example, could at first inflict flogging 
limited to thirty-nine lashes. Rabbis later devised a new more 
arbitrary way of inflicting punishment called "stripes of rebellion." 
The new method, which could be used by any rabbi, included 
harsher punishments. The number of lashes, for example, was 
unlimited. The cutting of limbs and unlimited imprisonment time 
were added. After the talmudic period and following the declines 
of the Roman and Sassanid Empires and of the Muslim caliphates, 
Jewish communities in many places became more autonomous and 
thus the opportunities for rabbis to impose more severe punishments 
increased. 

The Jewish religious authorities perpetrated most of the violence 
against Jews who were considered to be heretics or religious 
dissenters. The punishments imposed had to be warranted by the 
Talmud, or at least by interpretation of the Talmud. The Talmud 
was composed under the rule and authority of two strong empires, 
the Roman and the Sassanid; both of these empires limited the 
powers of Jewish autonomy much more than did subsequent 
medieval regimes. Talmudic sages frequently complained that 
under the rule of these two empires, they did not have the power 
to punish Jewish criminals with death but rather only with flogging. 
The few cases in which talmudic sages attempted to execute a Jewish 
criminal prompted strict official investigations. One of these few 
cases, mentioned in the Palestinian Talmud, concerned a Jewish 
prostitute in the third century who was finally executed. Apparently 
because execution was so difficult to enforce, the Talmud does not 
order a death punishment for Jewish heretics but does enjoin pious 
Jews to kill them by employing subterfuges. The major halachic 
codes, although emphasizing that the death punishment should be 
inflicted only if execution was possible, contain such prescription. 
The paradigmatic expression of this command in the codes comes 
ironically under the section devoted to saving life. The question is 
posed: What is a pious Jew to do when he sees a human being 
drowning in the sea or having fallen into a well? The talmudic 
answer, still accepted by traditional Judaism, is that the answer is 
dependent upon the category to which the human being belongs. 
If the person is either a pious Jew or one guilty of no more than 



120 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

ordinary offences, he should be saved. If the person is a non-Jew 
or a Jew who is a "shepherd of sheep and goats," a category that 
lapsed after talmudic times, he should neither be saved nor pushed 
into the sea or well. If, however, the person is a Jewish heretic, he 
should either be pushed down into the well or into the sea or; if 
the person is already in the well or sea, he should not be rescued. 
This legal stipulation, although mutilated by censorship in certain 
editions of the Talmud and even more in most translations, appears 
in Tractate Avoda Zara (pp. 26a-b). Maimonides also explained 
this stipulation in three places: In the Laws of Murderer and 
Preservation of Life> Maimonides contrasted the fate of non-Jews 
with that of Jewish heretics. In the passages from Laws of of Idolatry 
Maimonides only discussed Jewish heretics. In Laws of Murderer 
and Preservation of Life (chapter 4, rules 10-1 1), he wrote: 

The [Jewish] heretics are those [Jews] who commit sins on 
purpose; even one who eats meat not ritually slaughtered or who 
dresses in a sha'atnez clothes (made of linen and wool woven 
together) on purpose is called a heretic [as are] those [Jews] who 
deny the Torah and prophecy. They should be killed. If he [a 
Jew] has the power to kill them by the sword, he should do so. 
But if he has not [the power to do so], he should behave so 
deceitfully to them that death would ensue. How? If he [a Jew] 
sees one of them who has fallen into a well and there is a ladder 
into the well, he [should] take it away and say: "I need it [the 
ladder] to take my son down from the roof," or [he should say] 
similar things. Deaths of non-Jews with whom we are not at war 
and Jewish shepherds of sheep and goats and similar people 
should not be caused, although it is forbidden to save them if 
they are at the point of death. If, for example, one of them is seen 
falling into the sea, he should not be rescued. As it is written: 
"Neither shall you stand against the blood of your fellow" 
(Leviticus 19:16) but he [the non-Jew] is not your fellow. 

In Laws of Idolatry > chapter 2, rule 5 Maimonides stated: 

Jews who worship idolatrously are considered as non-Jews, in 
contrast to Jews who have committed [another] sin punishable 
by stoning; if he [a Jew] converted to idolatry he is considered 
to be a denier of the entire Torah. [Jewish] heretics are also not 
considered to be Jews in any respect. Their repentance should 
never be accepted. As it is written: "None that go into her return 
again, neither [do] they hold the paths of life" {Proverbs 2:19). 
[This verse is actually a reference to men who frequent "a 
strange woman," that is, a prostitute.] In regard to the heretics 
who follow their own thoughts and speak foolishly, it is forbidden 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 121 

to talk with or to answer them, as we have said above [in the 
first section of the work] so that they may ultimately contravene 
maliciously and proudly the most important parts of the Jewish 
religion and say there is no sin [in doing this]. As it is written: 
"Remove your way far from her and come not near the door of 
her house." (Proverbs 5:8). 

The last verse refers again to men who "frequent a strange woman", 
that is, a prostitute. The commentators explained that this passage 
meant that a truly repentant idolatrous Jew is accepted by the 
Jewish community, but a heretic is not accepted. A heretic who 
wants to repent, however, may do it alone. The main reason for 
this difference is seemingly that an idolatrous Jew, including one 
who converts to Christianity, accepts another religious discipline, 
while a heretic follows his own views and is thereby considered to 
be more dangerous. In chapter 10, rule 1 of Laws of Idolatry, 
Maimonides, after explaining the extermination of the ancient 
Canaanites and again asserting that no Jews should be killed, said: 
"All this applies to the seven [Canaanite] nations, but Jewish 
informers and heretics should be exterminated by one's own hand 
and put into hell, because they cause trouble to Jews by removing 
their hearts from being true to the Lord, like Tzadok, and Beitos 
[the alleged founders of the Sadducean sect] and their pupils. Let 
the name of the wicked perish." In nis next rule Maimonides 
asserted that non-Jews should not be healed by Jews except when 
danger of non-Jewish enmity exists. In his Fundamental Laws of 
Torah, the first treatise of his codex, chapter 6, rule 8, Maimonides, 
after explaining that Jews are forbidden to burn or otherwise to 
destroy the holy script and that they may not even damage any 
Hebrew writing in which one of the seven sacred names of God is 
written, ruled: 

If a Torah scroll was written by a Jewish heretic, it should be 
burned, together with all its sacred names [of God], because the 
heretic does not believe in the holiness of God and could not 
write it for God but must have thought that it is like other books. 
Therefore, given this view, God is not sanctified [by it] and it is 
a commandment to burn it [the scroll] so that no memory is left 
of the heretics or to their deeds. But, a Torah scroll written by 
a non-Jew should be put away with the other holy books that 
deteriorated or were written by non-Jews. 3 

Although he did not instruct Jews to burn heretical books, 
Maimonides probably based the above passage upon many directives 
issued by talmudic sages since about ad 100. These directives 
called for the burning of books by heretics. Indeed, talmudic sages 



122 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

even boasted at times about burning such books themselves. 
Halachic codes did not so instruct, but rabbinical responsa 
frequently called for and Jewish history is replete with examples of 
Jews burning Jewish books. Together with burial of books in 
cemeteries, this reached a high point in the eighteenth century. 
Although minimized in many apologetic histories of Jews, especially 
in works written in English, the burning and the burial in cemeteries 
of books in the history of Judaism was far more intense than in the 
histories of either Christianity or Islam. 

Traditional Judaism also forbade independent thoughts. In his 
Laws of Idolatry, chapter 2, rule 3, Maimonides, after explaining 
that a Jew should not think about idolatry, continued: 

And it is not only forbidden to think about idolatry but [about] 
any thought that may cause a Jew to doubt one principle of the 
Jewish religion. [The Jew] is warned not to bring it to his con- 
sciousness. We shall not think in that direction, and we shall not 
allow ourselves to be drawn into meditations of the heart, because 
human understanding is limited, and not every opinion is directed 
to the real truth. If a Jew, therefore, allows himself to follow his 
[independent] thoughts, he will surely destroy the world because 
of insufficient understanding. How? He may sometimes be 
seduced to idolatry and sometimes think about the uniqueness 
of the Lord, sometimes that he exists and other times that he 
does not; [he may] investigate what is above [in the sky] and what 
is below [under earth], what is before [the world was created] 
and what is after [the end of the world] . He may think about 
whether or not prophecy is true; he may think about whether or 
not the Torah was given by God. Because such people do not 
know the [true] logic to be used in order to reach the real truth, 
they become heretics. It is about that issue that the Torah warned 
us. As it is written: "And that you seek not after your own heart 
and after your own eyes that you are using to prostitute 
yourselves" (Numbers 16:39). [This verse is included in the 
third passage of "Kry'at Sh'ma," one of the most sacred Jewish 
prayers that is said daily in the morning and in the evening.] This 
means that every Jew is forbidden to allow himself to follow his 
own insufficient knowledge and to imagine that his own thoughts 
are capable of reaching the truth. The sages have said: "after your 
own heart" means heresy; "after your own eyes" means 
prostitution. This prohibition, even though the sin causes a Jew 
to lose paradise, does not carry the penalty of flogging [because 
flogging is inflicted only in cases of deeds] . 

Such prohibitions of any independent thinking (which some 
Haredim apply to some of Maimonides' own writings) were 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 123 

common in post-talmudic Judaism and have persisted to date in 
part of Orthodox Judaism. Orthodox Judaism totally prohibited 
independent thinking about issues discussed freely by St Augustine 
regardless of whatever answers he put forward. Indeed, such issues 
are almost never mentioned today by Orthodox Jewish scholars. 4 
Many theological problems freely discussed by Thomas Aquinas 5 
were and remain unthinkable in traditional Judaism. (Traditional 
Judaism today includes not only Orthodox but much of 
Conservative Judaism as well.) Amazingly, many people, especially 
in English-speaking countries, still attribute to post-talmudic 
Judaism the intellectual distinction achieved in numerous countries 
by many Jews in the past 1 50 years. This delusion has contributed 
to the spread of fundamentalist Judaism. In reality, the contrary 
has been the case. Most of the Jews who attained intellectual 
distinction were influenced by rebellion against this type of 
totalitarian system; they negated some of its major tenets. 

In addition to advocating that heretics be killed, whenever 
possible, by employing one method or another, traditional Judaism 
directed that heretics while still alive should under all possible cir- 
cumstances be treated in a worse manner than non-Jews or Jews 
who converted to another religion. One socially important example 
of such directed treatment is the burial of the heretic's corpse, 
together with the ceremonies to be observed by the family after the 
burial. Whereas traditional Judaism permits and sometimes even 
obliges Jews to bury most Jewish sinners, it strictly prohibits Jews 
to bury Jewish heretics and/or a few types of Jewish sinners. Tractate 
Trumot of the Palestinian Talmud^ chapter 8, halacha 3, discusses 
a Jewish butcher in the town of Tzipori in Galilee who sold non- 
kosher meat. This butcher fell from a roof and was killed. Rabbi 
Hanina Bar Hama, a sage in the early third century ad, encouraged 
the Jews of the town to let their dogs eat the corpse. Such behavior 
was usually not feasible; hence, later authorities were more 
moderate. Maimonides and later rabbis were content with 
prohibiting the family of the heretic to mourn his death and ordering 
the family to rejoice. Maimonides clearly put this in his Laws of 
Mourning, chapter 1, rule 10: 

All who separate themselves from public custom [of the Jews], 
such as those who do not fulfil commandments and do not 
honor the holidays or do not frequent synagogues or houses of 
study but rather regard themselves free and [behave] like other 
nations, and heretics, converts and informers should not be 
mourned; when they die, their brothers and all other relatives 
should put on white garments, make banquets and rejoice, since 
those who hate the Lord, blessed be he, have perished. 



124 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

Most Jews rigorously followed this rule of Maimonides until the 
beginning of Jewish modernization; some orthodox Jews follow this 
rule to date. 6 In the small towns of eastern Europe in the nineteenth 
century, Jews devised another custom of humiliating burial of 
heretics and other Jewish sinners. This custom, often mentioned 
in the contemporary Hebrew and Yiddish literature, was called "ass 
burial." It was derived from the biblical verse, Jeremiah 22: 19, where 
the prophet predicts that King Yohoiakim of Judah "will be buried 
as an ass." This custom had three general components. First, 
members of the Jewish burial society, called the Holy Society and 
consisting of the fiercest zealots of the town, would first beat the 
heretic's corpse. Then the corpse would thereafter be put on a cart 
filled with dung and was in that condition paraded through the town. 
Finally, the corpse would be buried beyond the fence of the 
graveyard without religious rites. The two expressions, "ass burial" 
and "beyond the fence" became proverbial terms in Hebrew and 
Yiddish and are still used to denote social ostracism. The famous 
Jewish writer, Peretz Smolenskin (1840-85), wrote a Hebrew 
novel, tided Ass Burial, which is still read. In his novel Smolenskin 
told the story of a young Jew in a Russian small town who, because 
of a petty quarrel with the chief of the Jewish burial society, was 
declared a heretic. The Jewish congregation hired an assassin who 
murdered the heretic. The heretic was buried in an ass burial. 
Smolenskin was the father of the naturalistic style in Hebrew 
literature. His novels were based upon a close observation of Jewish 
life as it was in his time. 

Learned authorities often disagreed on the definition of heretic. 
Talmudic sages enumerated several kinds of heretics who were 
called by different names. The Talmud emphasized one type of 
heretic, called "apikoros" apparently named after followers of the 
Greek philosopher, Epicurus. In Tractate Sanhedrin, page 99b of 
the Talmud, the Apikoros were designated as all Jews who were 
disrespectful to rabbis. One talmudic sage asserted that a Jew who 
was disrespectful to another Jew in the presence of a rabbi was a 
heretic. Rabbi Menahem Ha'Meiri, in commenting upon the above 
passage, said that a Jew who called a rabbi by his name without 
using the honorific tide was a heretic. The prevalent opinion until 
the twentieth century was that Jews who were disrespectful to 
rabbis were not heretics but were only "like heretics." Real heretics 
were those who denied the validity of the Talmud as religious 
authority. This definition did not lessen the punishment of heretics 
and other sinners, when feasible to employ under emergency laws. 
This definition lessened the duty, imposed by the Talmud, of 
separating many Jews who paid taxes from the congregation. In the 
first half of the twentieth century, two famous rabbis, Rabbi Hazon 
Ish and Rabbi Kook the elder both ruled that laws regarding 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 125 

heretics "do not apply because visible miracles do not occur." To 
what extent the Hazon Ish-Kook opinion is followed today is 
difficult to determine. At this point in our discussion, nevertheless, 
the focus is upon pre-modern times. 

Our survey of punishments, inflicted under emergency Jewish 
laws upon Jewish heretics and other sinners, begins with pro- 
nouncements by the last Jewish rabbis whose authority was and still 
is universally acknowledged. These rabbis were the heads of yeshivot 
in Iraq until about 1050; they were named "Ge'onim." (In the 
singular each of them bore the name "Ga'on," which in Hebrew 
means "genius.") The Ge'onim left many responses to questions 
addressed to them from all parts of the Jewish world. These 
questions were concerned with how Jews, especially Jewish 
communities, should behave. In his previously mentioned book 
(1922), Rabbi Simha Asaf quoted a collection of such responses 
ordering that a Jew who violates the sabbath should be flogged and 
should have his hair shaved (p. 45). Rabbi Paltoi Ga'on, as noted 
by Asaf, in ad 858 answered the more difficult question: Should 
a Jew who sinned on either the Sabbath or a holiday be flogged on 
that sacred day if the danger exists that he may escape before the 
Sabbath or the holiday ended? Rabbi Paltoi answered by reminding 
his questioners that the congregation had a prison and that the sinner 
could be imprisoned on the Sabbath or on the holiday and then 
flogged afterwards. Rabbi Paltoi, nevertheless, after acknowledg- 
ing that the act of flogging violated the Sabbath in certain ways, 
concluded that the concern about the Sabbath or holiday violations 
should not prevent the flogging of Jewish sinners on the sacred day 
(Asaf, p. 48). Rabbi Tzemach Ga'on, who lived after Rabbi Paltoi, 
was asked what to do with a Jewish priest who married a divorced 
woman, which as noted by Asaf is forbidden to priests (p. 52). Rabbi 
Tzemach Ga'on expressed the fear that such a sinner, if only 
flogged, would go to another place and during synagogue services 
would participate in the priest's blessing by stretching out over the 
heads of congregation members his hands with his fingers separated. 
Rabbi Tzemach Ga'on, therefore, ordered that the last joints of the 
priestly sinner's fingers should be cut off, thus identifying and 
making it impossible for the sinner to participate in the blessing. 
The last and most famous Ga'on, Rabbi Ha'i, who died in 1042, 
devoted a long response, cited by Asaf, to an explanation of how 
Jewish sinners were flogged during his time; he detailed, moreover, 
how they were specifically flogged by his court. He emphasized that 
the whip was made of hemp and for the worst sinners was especially 
thick. The sinner was bound "right hand to the right foot and left 
hand to the left foot." The one who flogged him stood near his head. 
The ceremony began with a reading of the appropriate biblical 
verses. After the flogging, the sinner stood naked with his dress in 



126 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

his hand and acknowledged the justice of his sentence. Finally, the 
court asked God to have mercy on him. In other responsa, cited 
by Asaf on pages 56 and 57, Rabbi Ha'i specified the sins for 
which Jews should be flogged. Cutting one's hair on the minor 
holidays, putting on shoes during the mourning periods and 
violating the Sabbath were three examples. Asaf pointed out further 
on pages 58 and 59 that other responsa in the eleventh century 
provided proofs that the Jews of Egypt flogged sinners in front of 
the doors of synagogues and that the rabbis of Italy, because of the 
general political chaos and much greater Jewish autonomy, could 
and did execute sinners. Asaf specifically recorded the numerous 
death sentences inflicted by the Babylonian rabbi, Abu Aharon, who 
immigrated to Italy; for example, Rabbi Abu Aharon sentenced an 
adulterer to be strangled and a man who committed incest with 
his mother-in-law to be burned. Asaf illustrated the wide parameters 
of flogging by reporting that another unnamed Italian rabbi 
stipulated that if a Jew living in a courtyard area with other Jews 
sold his flat to a non-Jew, he should be flogged. 

In Spain, whether under Muslim or Christian rule, Jewish 
autonomy and the consequent punishment of Jewish sinners were 
most developed and punishments were recorded in the largest 
number of cases. On page 62, Asaf quoted Rabbi Samuel the 
Prince, 7 who died in 1046: "Spanish Jews were always free of 
heresy, except in a few villages near the Christian land where 
suspicion exists of some heretics being harbored in secret. Our 
predecessors have flogged a part of [those] Jews who deserved to 
be flogged, and they have died from flogging." Rabbi Ha'i, as 
previously mentioned, insisted that the Jew being flogged must 
acknowledge the justice of his sentence and repent. Refusal to 
repent, Ha'i and many other rabbinical authorities made clear, 
compelled more flogging even until death. Spain may have become 
"free of heresy" at least partially because previous heretics were 
flogged to death. Rabbi Samuel's boast was confirmed to some 
extent, according to Asaf on page 63, by the story of the Jewish 
philosopher and historian, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Daud who, in his 
book Shalshelet Ha'kabalah (Chain of Tradition), told how the 
Karaites, when they began to spread, were humiliated and expelled 
from all the towns of Castile except for one. 8 Somewhat later, after 
Rabbi Daud's death, Maimonides moderated the flogging 
punishment. In his commentary on the Mishnah, Tractate Khulin, 
quoted by Asaf on page 64, Maimonides maintained that Jews who 
committed sins which would normally result in the death penalty 
should "now only be flogged and excommunicated but their excom- 
munication should never be removed." 

The Jewish sins punished with the greatest cruelty, apart from 
informing which will be separately discussed below, were acts of 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 127 

disobedience to the will of and/or physical attacks upon rabbis. Such 
acts were not rare occurrences. Asaf on page 67 quoted the late 
thirteenth-century responsa of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, the 
famous rabbi of Barcelona. Rabbi ben Aderet endeavored to show 
that any rabbi can "together with the elders" sentence Jews who 
oppose the rabbi's authority and are "notorious for their 
wickedness", not only to flogging but to the more severe 
punishments of having their hands or feet cut off or of being killed. 
Many other rabbinic responsa dealt in detail with such severe 
punishments. Asaf reported on page 72 that the previously 
mentioned Rabenu Asher was angry with Rabbi Moshe of Valencia 
for ruling against a usual custom and thus Asher's own authority 
in a matter of sabbath observance. From Toledo, Asher wrote to 
Rabbi Yitzhak of Valencia and ordered him to condemn the 
offending Rabbi Moshe to death unless he (Rabbi Moshe) did not 
repent after being fined and excommunicated. Rabenu Asher also 
dealt with the financial aspect of inflicting the death penalty. In his 
responsa to "the holy community of Avila," as reported by Asaf 
on page 74, the execution of the wicked was compared to the 
building of city walls; executions supposedly defended the purity 
of Judaism just as the walls defended their physical safety. Thus, 
just as every Jew could be compelled to pay taxes for the upkeep 
of the walls, every Jew could be compelled to pay for the execution 
of the wicked Jews. 

Our final example from Spain is a summary of the responsa of 
Rabbi Yehuda, the son of Rabenu Asher. This responsa, quoted 
by Asaf on page 77, is important not only because it documents 
the use of violence but also because it describes the normal 
procedure in emergency cases of halachic decision making in cases 
brought before the rabbinical court. The elaborate display of 
reasoning in Jewish emergency law, differing totally from Halacha, 
is well illustrated in this responsa. 

A cornerstone of the normal halachic procedure, based upon the 
Bible and employed in all cases brought before the rabbinical 
court, is that, in the absence of written documents that are used 
only in civil cases, every judgment must be based upon the testimony 
of two or more male Jewish witnesses. The testimony of each of 
the two witnesses must be exactly the same as determined in direct 
interrogation. In the illustrative example presented in his responsa, 
Rabbi Yehuda cited a case of a Jew who beat another Jew so 
severely that, as a consequence of this, the latter died. Two 
witnesses, Moshe and Avraham (family names not given), saw the 
beating. Two other witnesses, Yoseph and Yitzhak, saw only the 
beginning of the beating; they then left and thereafter returned to 
see the beaten man lying on the ground with blood pouring from 
his head. After giving thanks to God for "inspiring the kings of the 



128 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

earth to give Jews the power to judge [their offenders] as we are 
judging now," Rabbi Yehuda explained how the principles of 
current Jewish law that are not all according to Halacha have to 
be applied in the case under consideration. Rabbi Yehuda, as 
quoted by Asaf, decided: 

If only the testimony of Moshe and Avraham is found to be valid, 
the offender should be executed. If only one of their testimonies 
is found to be valid together with finding the testimony of either 
Yoseph or Yitzhak to be valid, the offender's hands should be 
cut off. If the testimony of either Moshe or Avraham is found 
to be valid but the testimony of both Yoseph and Yitzhak is found 
to be invalid, the offender's right hand should be cut off. If the 
testimony of both Moshe and Avraham is found to be invalid 
but the testimony of both Yoseph and Yitzhak is found to be valid, 
the offender's left hand should be cut off. If all the testimonies 
are found to be invalid, the offender should be exiled from the 
city because the fact that he killed [the victim] became notorious. 

In other European countries, Jewish autonomy and thus its 
consequences were less powerful than in Spain. Perhaps this was 
because the other states, in spite of their feudal nature, were 
stronger than the Spanish kingdoms before the latter part of the 
fifteenth century. In England, where royal power was especially 
strong and where Jews settled only after England's conquest by 
William I, there were, so far as we know, no cases of rabbis' flogging 
or otherwise punishing Jews for religious offenses. In continental 
Europe, where Jewish autonomy depended more on the feudal lords 
than on the king or emperor, however, there were significant 
numbers of cases. In fourteenth-century Germany, for example, 
the famous rabbi, Yosef Weil, according to Asaf on page 102, 
recorded in his book of responsa that Rabbi Shimon from 
Braunschweig asked him whether it was permitted to put out the 
eyes of a Jew who violated the Sabbath and Yom Kippur (the Day 
of Atonement) . Rabbi Weil answered that it was permitted and 
referred to talmudic evidence for his permission. In another case, 
reported by Asaf on page 104, the famous Rabenu Tarn who lived 
in northern France in the twelfth century ordered that in the case 
of a Jew who beat another Jew the punishment should be the 
cutting off of the offender's hand rather than the usual punishment 
of flogging. Asaf recorded on page 103 that another rabbi had seen 
his father inflicting the punishment of flogging. Flogging was used 
in general in Germany as a punishment for lesser religious sins; the 
cutting of limbs was rare. The use of flogging even diminished with 
the passage of time; fines, excommunications and obligatory fasts 
were used by German Jews as almost the only punishments. 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 129 

In the countries east of Germany, especially in Poland and after 
1569 in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth where Jewish 
autonomy was extensive, punishments inflicted by rabbis almost 
equalled those inflicted in Spain. Every Jewish community had its 
own prison and stocks, called "kuneh" in Yiddish, that were placed 
in the entrances to major synagogues. The stocks consisted of iron 
bars to secure the sinner's arms, compelling him to stand facing 
entering members of the congregation who would spit at him, slap 
his face and/or take other physical action against him. Flogging was 
freely practiced in the synagogue, usually during the reading of the 
law in the midst of the morning prayer. Asaf reported on page 122 
that the famous sixteenth-century rabbi, Shlomo Luria, assured his 
questioners that a well-flogged sinner would not sin again and that 
the number of stripes in flogging should be determined by the court 
according to what is decided as fitting the sin. In serious cases the 
inflicted penalties were mutilation and death. A generation after 
Rabbi Shlomo Luria, another famous rabbi, Maharam (our teacher 
Rabbi Meir) of Lublin, according to Asaf on page 123, wrote 
about a case of a Jewish murderer caught by Polish authorities. 
Maharam insisted that such an offender should be executed by the 
rabbinical or Polish authorities. Maharam warned the rabbis against 
substituting mutilation for execution: 

I recall what occurred when I was young, in the time of Rabbi 
Shekhna R.I.P. In his time there was a most wicked Jew; the great 
rabbi permitted [the community] to put out his eyes and cut off 
his tongue. After having this done to him, he converted to 
Christianity, married a non-Jewish woman and had children. He 
and his [family members] were always enemies of the Jews. 

In the seventeenth century, mutilation as a punishment, instead 
of death or flogging, tended to disappear among Jews of the Polish- 
Lithuanian Commonwealth. Expulsion from the town appeared as 
a new punishment. The autonomous Jewish community of a given 
town could determine which Jews would reside in the town. The 
privilege of residence was usually granted automatically only to the 
children of the old residents, their wives and the rabbis. All other 
Jews had to apply to the community authorities and receive, often 
after a payment and/or for a limited time, their residence rights. 
One of the cruellest punishments that a Jewish congregation could 
inflict, therefore, was expulsion, because an expelled Jew would have 
great difficulty acquiring residence rights elsewhere. This 
punishment, nevertheless, was increasingly employed in the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. When Russia, Prussia and 
Austria thereafter divided Poland, these three conquering powers 
limited the autonomy of Jewish communities and forbade them to 



130 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

expel their members from towns. The expulsions in the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries were often immediate, regardless of the 
time of year, and were many times used as a weapon in religious 
disputes, such as the quarrel between the Hassids and their 
opponents, the Mitnagdim. The Union of Jewish Congregations 
in Lithuania, according to Asaf on page 127, ordered immediate 
expulsion from the town in addition to physical and financial 
punishment for any Jew who "behaved with contempt toward the 
rabbi." In another rule, cited by Asaf on pages 127 and 128, the 
Union ordered congregations to expel Jews who had previously been 
expelled from another town. The expelled Jews were usually 
compelled to sign a document, similar to the one quoted by Asaf 
on page 132, from the city of Krakow, stating that if they stay in 
the town for even one night they must accept any punishment 
imposed upon them by the community leaders, including 
"mutilation of ear or nose or of other places." In another case, cited 
by Asaf, a young Jew, who was expelled from Krakow for having 
taken part in a theft committed in the house of a notable, was 
sentenced to be flogged in front of the door to the synagogue; the 
youth additionally had to sign a declaration that if found again in 
Krakow he knew that "his two ears would be cut off, in addition 
[to his receiving] other punishments." The kuneh or stock was also 
used in this period as punishment especially for heretics but also 
for sinners who committed minor offences. In 1772, when the 
leaders of the Jewish community of Vilna began their struggle 
against the Hassidic movement, they first punished the Hassids in 
their town. Before the eve of the Sabbath prayer all Hassidic 
writings were burned near the kuneh so that the congregation 
members would see the ashes when they came to the synagogue. 
Before the burning the chief Hassid of Vilna, Meir Issar, was 
flogged privately in the "hall of the community." Following 
the flogging, Issar had to confess his sin, strictly following the 
formula prepared by the rabbinic court, in the synagogue during 
morning Sabbath prayers. He was then imprisoned for one week 
in the castle of Vilna. The chief rabbinic authority at that time, 
Haga'on Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna, additionally wanted to put Issar 
in the kuneh, but the community leaders, apparently because 
Issar's family was important, refused. This story, mentioned by Asaf 
on page 139, was included in the detailed, Hebrew-language 
histories of this period. 9 

The story of Meir Issar is a typical example of persecution by 
Jewish authorities in eastern Europe of a Jewish religious dissident 
at the end of the eighteenth century. Fanaticism, religious disputes 
interposed with excommunications, burning of or sometimes burial 
in cemeteries of books and popular riots against heretics and 
dissenters characterized many European Jewish communities 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 1 3 1 

throughout most of the eighteenth century, with the exception of 
those in England and Holland. Towards the end of the century the 
zealotry decreased, first in Germany and Italy and then in the 
larger towns of eastern Europe; it continued during much of the 
nineteenth century among the bulk of the Jewish population in 
eastern Europe who lived in smaller towns. The great majority of 
Jewish immigrants to the United States, Britain and a few other 
places in the nineteenth century, having come from areas in which 
religious persecution of Jews by other Jews had been widely practiced 
for a long time, suddenly arrived in countries in which such 
persecution could not, at least not to nearly the same extent, be 
carried out. 10 The wish of many eighteenth-century Jews to 
persecute was seemingly greater than their actual ability to do so. 
An incident in the history of the Frankist heresy, which erupted in 
Poland in 1756 and continued for some years thereafter, provides 
a good example. When leaders of the autonomous Jewish 
community in Poland learned of this heresy, one of them, Rabbi 
Baruch from Greece, wrote a long letter to his friend in Germany 
and one of the greatest rabbis of that generation, Rabbi Ya'akov 
Emden. 1 1 In his letter Rabbi Baruch described the proceedings and 
aims of the main council of Jewish autonomy held in September, 
1756, in Konstantinov. The council was called the 'committee of 
four lands', a name which referred to the four main Polish provinces. 
Rabbi Baruch reported details of the heresy and wrote that the 
committee of four lands decided "to bring the matter before the 
great Lord who rules over their [the Christian] faith, the Pope in 
Rome" and to struggle against the heresy. Rabbi Baruch wrote 
further that the committee asked "the help of [Polish] bishops so 
that the cursed ones would be condemned to be burned at the 
stake." Meir Balaban, the distinguished historian of Polish Jewry, 
remarked that the wish to see hundreds of "the cursed ones" 
burned at the stake by the Christian authorities, who at that very 
time were persecuting Polish Jews, indicated the depth of the 
hatred of the heretics felt by the Jewish leadership. 12 The 
committee's attempt failed. Rabbi Baruch went so far as to try to 
involve his patron, the powerful Minister Bruhl who was the favorite 
of the Polish King August III in this matter. Rabbi Baruch wanted 
Bruhl to arrange an interview for him with the papal nuncio in 
Warsaw. The Pope of that time period, Benedict XVIII, would 
almost certainly not have agreed to have a mass burning, but the 
heretics anyway obtained the help of powerful bishops and magnates 
and even of Countess Bruhl, the wife of the minister. The result 
was that the Jewish leaders could not, as they wanted to, pursue 
the persecution. 

It may be instructive to compare the Frankist heresy incident with 
what Baruch Spinoza had to endure in Holland about a hundred 



132 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

years earlier. Because of the relatively tolerant and more modern 
Dutch regime, the Jewish community of Amsterdam could only 
excommunicate Spinoza. As much as members of that community 
desired to do so, they could not flog or kill Spinoza; they could not 
compel Spinoza to make public confession in the synagogue that 
he had sinned in his commentaries and statements about Judaism. 
The Jewish community could only excommunicate Spinoza and 
forbid him from attending the synagogue. A few years before 
Spinoza's excommunication, the Jewish community of Amsterdam 
excommunicated Uriel D'Acusta for similar reasons. D'Acusta, 
however, was not endowed with Spinoza's firmness and could not 
stand his exclusion from the synagogue and from Jewish community 
life. D'Acusta asked the rabbis to reinstate him. The rabbis 
sentenced him not only to the usual confession but also to lie at 
the synagogue entrance so that congregation members could 
trample on him before praying to God. D'Acusta accepted the 
conditions and, after both confessing and being trampled upon, 
was duly forgiven. He, however, again came thereafter to have 
heretical views. Fearing another excommunication and something 
even worse than being trampled underfoot as a recurrent sinner, 
he committed suicide. A comparison between the fates of Spinoza 
and D'Acusta suggests two lessons for contemporary Jews who do 
not wish to submit to the tyranny often prevalent in Jewish 
orthodoxy: 1) An intellectual compromise with Jewish orthodoxy 
is no more possible than is an intellectual compromise with any 
other totalitarian system. 2) An apologetic approach to the Jewish 
past, which is in reality false beautification and falsification of one 
part of Jewish history and is intended to remove the horrors and 
persecutions that Jews suffered at the hands of their own authorities 
and rabbis, only increases the dangers of a developing Jewish 
"Khomeinism." In Israel such compromise increases the danger 
of a Jewish state that could become dominated by rabbis who will 
not hesitate to punish other Jews as did their revered predecessors 
when not prevented from doing so by an outside power. 

We have seen that formal and legal infliction of severe 
punishments depended upon the amount of Jewish autonomy that 
existed in specific places at specific times. Russia, Prussia and 
Austria, as previously noted, after their conquest of Poland, 
abolished Jewish autonomy and subjected Jews to the ordinary 
criminal law of their countries. As bad as that criminal law was, it 
was on balance better and more humane than the Jewish law as 
applied by the rabbis. 13 Jewish communities that were suddenly 
deprived of their power to persecute heretics found it difficult to 
accustom themselves to a new situation. The relatively lax police 
supervision that existed in Tsarist Russia during most of the 
nineteenth century allowed Jewish authorities to persecute religious 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 133 

innovators through riots, which were similar to what were called 
"pogroms" when committed by non-Jews against Jews. Until 1881 
in Russia, the number of riots by Jews against other Jews probably 
exceeded the number of pogroms by non-Jews against Jews. The 
previously persecuted Hassids were the major and worst persecutors; 
they were especially active against the emerging Hebrew press of 
that time that appeared before the rise of the Yiddish press. The 
Hebrew press antagonized the Hassids mainly by reporting and 
protesting against the religious persecution by rabbis and their 
followers. In order to avert persecution by Jewish rioters, most of 
the Hebrew papers were printed and issued in St. Petersburg or 
behind the Prussian border, where the police were strong and the 
small Jewish communities mosdy consisted of educated individuals. 
The history of Jews in Russia until 1881 includes a great deal of 
persecution of Jews by Jews. The two following typical examples, 
one major and one minor, are illustrative: The major example is 
taken from the long article by David Asaf, 14 published in Zion (1994, 
number 4), the quarterly journal of the Israeli Historical Association. 
Asaf described the riot in Uman in the Ukraine, where one of the 
more famous Hassidic rabbis, Nahman of Braslaw, was buried and 
where his followers who came on pilgrimage to his tomb on the 
Jewish New Year were attacked and beaten year after year for 
decades by other Hassids. The annual beatings finally culminated 
in 1 863 in an especially nasty attack by a coalition of Hassidic sects 
that was described by a contemporary Jewish writer in the Hebrew 
press of that time. The writer of the article noted the similarity 
between this Hassidic "pogrom" and those committed by the anti- 
Semites. He described how Hassids smashed the holy cupboard 
(Aron Ha'kodesh in Hebrew) where the scrolls of law were stored. 
The attacking Hassids considered the place to be heretical in and 
of itself; the alleged heretics were beaten and stoned; when they 
fainted, they were attacked again. The attackers used the occasion 
to beat the modernized Jews of the place as well, including women 
who wore what was considered to be immodest clothing. Fearful 
of other attacks, the Breslaw Hassids hired a company of Russian 
soldiers to defend themselves from other Hassids. The following 
year the collapse of the Hassidic coalition and another Jewish 
attack upon Jews in the town of Rzhishchev (south of Kiev) gave 
the Breslaw Hassids a temporary respite. The Rzhishchev riot 
erupted when a holy rabbi from another place had the temerity to 
visit Rzhishchev, where another holy rabbi resided, to collect 
money. As Asaf wrote in his article: "Of course, the Hassids of the 
local holy rabbi cursed and stoned the invader and he was almost 
killed." Many of the Hassids were wounded. The two holy rabbis 
then proclaimed that ritual slaughterers of each side were not 
kosher; each rabbi also proclaimed that the prayers of the other side 



134 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

were "an abomination to God." Scuffles ensured. The holy rabbi 
of Rzhishchev was denounced by his colleague as a forger of 
banknotes. A police investigation followed. Although the Breslaw 
Hassids attained a respite, they were, as Asaf showed, attacked 
periodically by other Hassids until 1914. 

A minor example occurred in the town of Vyshegrad in 1 886 and 
was recorded in the contemporary Hebrew press. Quoting research 
of new Jewish historians, Rosen in his previously cited article wrote: 

Hassids of Vyshegrad were opposed to the new cantor [of the 
synagogue] because his clothes are clean and he puts rubber shoes 
over his ordinary shoes. They therefore rioted in the synagogue 
against this cantor and beat their opponents until blood flowed. 
The police came quickly to separate the two sides. The rabbi who 
incited the riot was then arrested by soldiers and brought to the 
government house to explain the riot. The actual rioters will be 
criminally prosecuted. 

After 1881 the situation in Russia began to change and Jewish 
attacks upon Jews decreased for several apparent reasons. First, in 
1881 the government instigated Russian and Ukrainian pogroms 
began, and mass emigration of Jews from Russia began. In addition 
police supervision was tightened under the regime of Alexander III, 
who ascended to the throne after revolutionaries assassinated his 
father, Alexander II. Attacks by Jews against Jews, although 
diminished, nevertheless continued in Russia until 1914. 

In Polish areas ruled by Austrian police, supervision was stronger 
and therefore direct attacks by Jews against other Jews apparently 
ceased. Orthodox Jews employed some secret forms of religious 
persecution against modern Jews, who called themselves "maskilim" 
(enlightened). In extreme cases, Jewish servants of the maskilim 
were suborned to kill their employers or other methods of assassi- 
nation were employed. In his article Rosen related: 

Because of the approaching anniversary of Rabin's assassination. 
Professor Ze'ev Gris of the department of Jewish thought at 
Ben-Gurion University [in Be'er Sheva] sent us a story about 
what happened in Lemberg (now Lviv) in the nineteenth century. 
[In 1 848 Lemberg was part of Austria.] A rabbi, named Avraham 
Cohen was assassinated by Jews for religious reasons. This was 
part of a confrontation between enlightened Jews, although 
relatively moderate since they kept the commandments, and the 
fanatical Hassids. An article about this was once published by 
the Hebrew press in Palestine in Davar one year after [the Labor 
leader] Arlozorov [was assassinated] . [The article] was severely 
attacked by the right wing Hebrew press of that time. 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 135 

Rosen also quoted Professor Bartal who believed the attacks of the 
TIassids in the general confrontation to be the forerunner of the 
massacre committed by Baruch Goldstein. Bartal commented 
further that the maskilim usually only attacked the Hassids or 
other orthodox religious Jews by employing satire. 15 Only if 
provoked beyond endurance, Bartal asserted, would the maskilim 
attack or defend themselves by using physical violence. 

Rosen's account of the poisoning assassination of Rabbi Cohen, 
as taken from what Professor Gris wrote, is worth relating: 

In Lemberg in the 1 840s hundreds of maskilim, after looking for 
a rabbi to head their congregation, found Rabbi Avraham Cohen, 
who was the rabbi in the small Austrian town of Hohenmass. 
Avraham Cohen was born in Bohemia to a poor Jewish peddler, 
but he became highly educated. After finishing his Yeshiva 
studies and receiving the authorization to become a rabbi, he went 
to study at and earned a degree from Prague University. The 
historian, Dr Ze'ev Aharon Eshkoli, who researched the story 
of Rabbi Cohen, published his account in 1934; he wrote that 
Cohen was a moderate but as "one educated in the German style 
of those times he was considered a modernist." In 1844, Cohen 
was appointed rabbi of the Lemberg congregation of maskilim; 
two years later he was the rabbi of all maskilim in the district of 
Lemberg. In this role he tried to introduce changes in Jewish life, 
but he soon encountered furious opposition of "the religious 
fanatics," as Eshkoli defined them. Cohen, for example, initiated 
the opening of Jewish schools that would serve as alternates to 
yeshivot, and he attempted to abolish the tests of Jewish religious 
subjects that Orthodox rabbis imposed upon all young Jewish 
couples at their betrothal. Cohen's most important initiative, 
according to Eshkoli, was his attempt to abolish the taxes on 
kosher meat and sabbath candles, which Lemberg Jews paid to 
[Austrian] authorities. These taxes were burdensome for poor 
Jews but were sources of income for many Orthodox notables. 
The method [of taxation] was as follows: A rich Jew for a certain 
lump sum obtained from the authorities the right to impose the 
tax on the Jews, from whom he took a much greater sum 
supposedly for his efforts. Five tax gatherers, all very pious, 
headed the opposition to Cohen. Their leader was Rabbi Hertz 
Berenstein, who came from a noted rabbinical family; the second 
was Rabbi Tzvi Orenstein, the son of the former Orthodox rabbi 
of Lemberg. In 1846, Cohen sent a memorandum to the emperor 
[of Austria] pointing out the injustice involved in the gathering 
of those taxes. Because of his connection with the authorities, 
he was twice invited to talk with the emperor. The five tax 
gatherers also sent a memorandum pointing out that the tax 



136 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

gathering provides a livelihood for thousands of Jewish families. 
The Austrian authorities, nevertheless, accepted Cohen's request 
and abolished those taxes in March, 1848. 

The abolition of those taxes may not primarily have been due to 
Cohen's request. The 1848 revolution, which began in Vienna as 
a reaction against Hapsburg absolutism, probably prompted the 
tax abolition. Austrian liberals viewed those taxes as discrimina- 
tory and opposed them; they were supported by the enlightened 
Jews. Orthodox Jews, especially their rabbis, were the firm allies 
of absolutism and reaction, not only in Austria but throughout 
Europe and the Middle East. Rosen continued his story about Rabbi 
Cohen's misfortune: 

Whether for reasons of ideological opposition to Cohen or for 
economic reasons or for both, the five Jewish notables in 1848 
began a total struggle against Rabbi Avraham Cohen. First, they 
put placards in the synagogues that incited Jews to spit in his face 
and stone him. When the persecution increased, Cohen's friends 
asked him to agree to his being guarded all the time; he refused, 
saying that he did not believe that Jews would kill him. The next 
step involved placards saying plainly that the "law of pursuer" 
[to be explained below] applies to Rabbi Cohen. [One placard 
said], for example: "He is one of those Jewish sinners for which 
the Talmud says their blood is permitted" (that is, every Jew can 
and should kill them) . Another placard asked: "Will a Jew be found 
who will liberate us from the rabbi who destroys his congregation?" 
The fanatics first decided that the assassination would take place 
during Purim in 1848; they even cast lots to determine who would 
have the honor of murdering the rabbi, but their plans went awry. 
A month later during Passover of 1848 a crowd of Jews stoned 
Rabbi Cohen's home; only a large number of policemen saved 
him. On September 6, 1848, however, Avraham Bar-Pilpel, a 
Jewish assassin, successfully entered the rabbi's home unseen, 
went to the kitchen and put arsenic poison in the pot of soup 
that was cooking. Shortly thereafter. Rabbi Cohen and his family 
ate the soup; Rabbi Cohen and his little daughter died. The 
Hassids and their leaders did not attend the funeral; they 
celebrated. No Orthodox rabbi, moreover, uttered one word of 
condemnation, neither of murderous incitement before the 
murder nor of the murder itself. Many nationalistic Jews who 
were not Orthodox shared in being silent. The Jewish historian 
Graetz, author of the first history of the Jews, omitted this story 
from his history, which, by the way, [was published] later. 
Orthodox Jews took the murdered rabbi's corpse from the section 
of the notables of the cemetery and buried it in another section. 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 1 37 

Professor Ze'ev Gris says: "My conclusion is, and I am sorry for 
it, that there is nothing new in Judaism." The de-legitimization, 
incitement, writing on the wall and especially the silence of the 
rabbinical leadership of Galicia of those times - everything was 
exactly the same as it was before the assassination of Rabin. 

Was the murder of Rabbi Avraham Cohen an exceptional case? 
In December, 1838, the governor of southwestern Russia, 
General Dimitri Gabrielovitch Bibikov, issued a circular to 
district governors under his authority. He asked them to look 
carefully into what was happening in the synagogues and in 
Jewish houses of study. "In those places," he wrote, "Very often 
something happens that leaves dead Jews in its wake. Such 
crimes are especially grave since they occur in places dedicated 
to prayer and study of religious principles. They also are char- 
acteristic of autonomous judgment by the rabbinical courts, 
executed by their false views about extermination of 'informers' 
who reveal crimes of their co-religionists. The rabbis often 
succeed in obscuring the [official] investigation to such an extent 
that not only the identity of the assassins but even the identity 
of the victim remain unclear." 

Many Israeli new historians believe that the forms of violence 
committed against both heretics and informers are intimately 
connected. 

Two additional halachic laws are of special importance both 
generally and specifically when related to the Rabin assassination. 
These two laws, employed since talmudic times to kill Jews, were 
invoked by the assassin, Yigal Amir, as his justification for killing 
Prime Minister Rabin and are still emphasized by Jews who 
approved or have barely condemned that assassination. These are 
the "law of the pursuer" (din rodef) and the "law of the informer" 
(din moser). 16 The first law commands every Jew to kill or to 
wound severely any Jew who is perceived as intending to kill 
another Jew. According to halachic commentaries, it is not necessary 
to see such a person pursuing a Jewish victim. It is enough if 
rabbinic authorities, or even competent scholars, announce that the 
law of the pursuer applies to such a person. The second law 
commands every Jew to kill or wound severely any Jew who, 
without a decision of a competent rabbinical authority, has informed 
non-Jews, especially non-Jewish authorities, about Jewish affairs or 
who has given them information about Jewish property or who has 
delivered Jewish persons or property to their rule or authority. 
Competent religious authorities are empowered to do, and at times 
have done, those things forbidden to other Jews in the second law. 
During the long period of incitement preceding the Rabin assas- 
sination, many Haredi and messianic writers applied these laws to 



138 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

Rabin and other Israeli leaders. The religious insiders based 
themselves on later developments in Halacha that came to include 
other categories of Jews who were defined as "those to whom the 
law of the pursuer" applied. Every Jew had a religious duty to kill 
those Jews who were so included. Historically, Jews in the diaspora 
followed this law whenever possible, until at least the advent of the 
modern state. In the Tsarist Empire Jews followed this law until 
well into the nineteenth century. 

The land of Israel has been and still is considered by all religious 
Jews as being the exclusive property of the Jews. Granting 
Palestinians authority over any part of this land could be interpreted 
as informing. Some religious Jews interpreted the relations that 
developed between Rabin and the Palestinian Authority as causing 
harm to the Jewish settlers. In this sense, Rabin had informed. 
Influential rabbis, such as the Gush Emunin leader, Rabbi Moshe 
Levinger, publicly denounced as informers Rabin, some Labor 
and Meretz ministers and some Knesset members. Professor Asa 
Kasher of Tel-Aviv University, a widely respected person in Israel, 
tried to enlighten the public by writing a letter to the editor of 
Haaretz about the exact meaning of the term employed by Levinger 
and about the danger of assassination implied therein. His warnings 
were disregarded by everyone, including Rabin and the editors of 
Haaretz, Shabak, the branch of the Israeli secret police responsible 
for domestic affairs and the body responsible for guarding Rabin, 
also ignored the dangers implicit in a possible, and obviously 
probable, application to Rabin of the law of the informer. Shabak 
insisted until the actual happening that the danger of murder came 
only from Muslim extremists. Interestingly, by the end of August 
1998, the Israeli media was filled with Shabak's warnings that 
Jewish religious fanatics intended to assassinate Netanyahu, Defense 
Minister Mordechai and other ministers because of their agreement 
in principle to Israeli withdrawal from an additional 1 3 per cent 
of the West Bank. These warnings were based upon the same fun- 
damentalist logic that led to the assassination of Rabin; they 
indicated some of the danger posed by Jewish fundamentalism. 

Rabin's murder followed logically from the religious premises of 
the 1984 Jewish underground. Members of the underground were 
then apprehended planting bombs under Arab buses near Jerusalem 
on a Friday. The bombs had timing devices so that they would 
explode after the Sabbath eve had commenced when under Jewish 
religious law, travel on a bus was prohibited and sinful. At that time, 
before the Intifada, many Israeli Jews rode in Arab buses. The only 
category of people not likely to use these buses when the bombs 
were due to explode were religious Jews. The pious members of 
the Jewish underground sought prior rabbinical approval for all their 
actions. Peres, Rabin and Shamir, acting together in accordance 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 139 

with the agreement that the national unity government then in power 
had devised, ordered the police to stop investigating the extremist 
rabbis. Not one rabbi opposed the religious reasoning that led to 
the planting of these bombs. The conclusion is inescapable that 
some rabbis approved and others did not oppose wanton killing of 
non-religious Jews, presumably because of their heretical opinions. 
Yediot Ahronot in its November 16, 1995, issue alleged that Rabbi 
Nahum Rabinowitz proposed the planting of mines and explosive 
devices around settlements threatened with evacuation by the 
Israeli army. This proposal followed the same line of reasoning. 
When asked about the danger inherent to lives of Jewish soldiers 
in his proposal, Rabbi Rabinowitz answered: "If they obey the order 
to remove a Jewish settlement, then they are wicked Jews" and as 
such, he implied, they deserve death. This should be seen within 
the context of the twofold hatred of non-Jews and secular Jews that 
settlement rabbis had preached for some time. 

The reason for the willful ignorance of this danger, shared by 
many Israeli Jews, including Rabin himself, was in our view Jewish 
chauvinism, which is so prevalent among Jews. The chauvinists 
falsify the history of their nation in order to make it appear better 
than it really was. They also falsify the current situation by claiming 
that their nation is the best. This claim, often made by too many 
Jews, is especially dangerous when reinforced by a combination of 
religious fanaticism and willful ignorance. Jewish chauvinism is 
especially virulent, because the identification between Jewish 
religion and Jewish nationality has prevailed for so long and still 
prevails among many Jews. It should not be forgotten that 
democracy and the rule of law were brought into Judaism from the 
outside. Before the advent of the modern state, Jewish communities 
were mostly ruled by rabbis who employed arbitrary and cruel 
methods as bad as those employed by totalitarian regimes. The 
dearest wish of the current Jewish fundamentalists is to restore this 
state of affairs. 

The information in the Talmud itself about killing and punishing 
Jewish informers is scanty and is anecdotal in nature. Fear of 
Roman and Sassanid authorities was at least partially responsible 
for this. The same situation existed during the time of the Ge'onim 
of Iraq, who lived from about ad 750 to 1050 under the strong rule 
of the Abassid Caliphate. The responsa of the Ge'onim rarely deal 
only with informers and impose at most only religious penalties. 
Rabbi Paltoi, according to Asaf on page 49 of The Punishments, stated 
in the mid-ninth century that an informer is not only a Jew who 
actually informs but one who during a quarrel in public with 
another Jew says that he will inform. Paltoi, nevertheless, imposed 
the mild penalty of designating such a person "wicked" and thus 
incapable of giving either an oath or testimony. In Muslim Spain, 



140 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

after the dissolution of the strong Ummayad Caliphate in the early 
years of the eleventh century, the situation was different, and 
informers were frequently executed. In Alicena, a city mostly 
inhabited by Jews in the mid-eleventh century, Rabbi Yosef Halevi 
Ibn Ha'migash, a famous scholar, according to Asaf on page 63 of 
The Punishments, ordered Jews to stone an informer during the 
Ne'yila prayer on Yom Kippur, which that year fell on the Sabbath. 
Stoning is usually considered to be a severe violation of both Yom 
Kippur and the Sabbath. The Ne'yila prayer, moreover, said only 
once a year at the close of Yom Kippur, is probably the most holy 
prayer in the Jewish calendar. The choice of that particular time 
must have been dictated by the need to explain to all Jews that the 
duty of killing a Jewish informer is more important than other 
religious considerations. Indeed, Maimonides wrote in his author- 
itative commentary to the Mishnah, as quoted by Asaf in The 
Punishments on page 63: "It happens every day in the west [Spain 
and North Africa] that informers who allegedly informed about 
money of the Jews are killed or are [themselves] informed against 
to non-Jews so that they [the Jewish informers] would be either killed 
or beaten by them [the non-Jews] or given to the wicked." This 
rule, widely quoted by later authorities, established an important 
precedent: informing is permitted, even enjoyed, when done by 
communal Jewish authorities in cases that they consider essential. 
Only individual Jews should be killed if they inform. 17 

In another part of his commentary Maimonides said that the 
obligation to kill both informers and heretics is a tradition that is 
applied in all cities of the west. After the reconquest of most of Spain 
by the Christians, except for the kingdom of Grenada, killings of 
informers continued and actually intensified in the kingdoms of 
Granada, Castile and Aragon. The number of cases recorded in 
the Spanish responsa is very large. The following few examples are 
representative: Rabenu Asher, as quoted by Asaf in The Punishments 
on page 73, answered a question about a Jew who was a notorious 
informer; the rabbinical court investigated the case. Rabenu Asher 
answered that the killing of informers does not need witnesses but 
only the expression of opinion by other Jews that a given person is 
indeed an informer. "Had we needed to take testimony of witnesses 
before the accused," Rabenu Asher opined, "we would never be 
able to convict them [the informers] . " (This same reasoning was 
employed by the Inquisition, by modern totalitarian states and by 
the Israeli conquest regime in the territories occupied since 1967.) 
Rabenu Asher immigrated to Spain from northern France when 
already a famous rabbi; he was probably familiar with Ashkenazi 
customs as well as with those of Spanish Jews. Hence, he could 
probably comment with knowledge and sophistication that common 
practice in the diaspora was to punish with death an informer who 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 141 

informed three times on the Jews or their money. This was necessary, 
Rabenu Asher maintained, so that the number of informers among 
Jews would not increase. After reflecting upon all of this a bit 
more, he concluded that killing the informer as a punishment was 
a good deed. It would emphasize that all the Lord's enemies should 
perish. 

In another responsa, cited by Asaf on page 74, Rabenu Asher 
dealt with a Jew, called either Avraham or Alot. Some Jews had 
charged that he had informed several times. Rabenu Asher insisted 
for all to know that the informer could be punished even on Yom 
Kippur when it falls on the Sabbath; he said that this had occurred 
in Germany and France. Rabbi Yehuda, the son of Rabenu Asher, 
opined, according to Asaf on page 79 of The Punishments, "[In the 
case of a Jew who had been an informer for years] every one who 
kills him will be rewarded by God. A Jew who could kill the 
informer and did not can be punished for all that the informer did 
as if he did it himself." In another case Rabbi Yehuda explained 
that the Jews themselves should kill the informers lest non-Jewish 
judges would refuse to inflict death penalties for informing. In some 
cases Jewish congregations literally bought the life of an informer 
from the king and then executed him publicly. This occurred for 
instance, in Barcelona in April, 1279. Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, 
according to Asaf in The Punishments on pages 65 to 67, reported 
this in his responsa. A Jew, named Vidalan de Porta, who belonged 
to a noble family, informed to King Pedro II of Aragon, who was 
also the Count of Catalonia. After being requested by the Jewish 
inhabitants of Catalonia, the king agreed (probably for a payment) 
to deliver him to the Jewish authorities of Barcelona, who had 
previously sentenced de Porta to death. Jews in Barcelona led him 
"to the street before the cemetery in Barcelona, and they opened 
the veins of both his arms. He bled to death." Three years after 
the execution, brothers of the victim protested against it. Rabbi 
Shlomo ben Aderet defended the verdict by noting that such 
verdicts were often carried out in Aragon and Castile. He also wrote 
to Germany seeking and receiving support for the verdict from the 
most important rabbi of that time, Meir of Rothenburg (Maharam). 
The law of the informer is clearly apparent in an anonymous 
Spanish responsa, important because it was quoted by the famous 
sixteenth-century Polish rabbi, Shlomo Luria. This is cited by 
Asaf in The Punishments on pages 83 to 87: "He [the informer] is 
not only killed by decision of the [rabbinic] court, but any Jew who 
himself is first to kill him will be rewarded by God." This same 
statement appeared in numerous rabbinical responsa. 

Spanish Jews killed and/or mutilated informers as late as the 
fifteenth century. Jews in other communities, especially in North 
Africa and Portugal, who were influenced by Spanish Jews did 



142 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

likewise. Rabbi Shimon, the son of Rabbi Tzemach, who emigrated 
from Spain and went to Algiers in the early fifteenth century wrote 
in a responsa, as reported by Asaf on page 88 of The Punishments, 
about the sacred duty to kill an informer. In another responsa, 
according to Asaf on page 89 of The Punishments, Rabbi Shimon 
recognized that killing was not always possible. He advised in such 
cases that the informer should be branded on his brow or flogged 
but in any case should have his name as an informer publicized in 
all communities. 

Information about the killing of reformers in early Ashkenazi 
communities in northern France and Germany is sparse before and 
non-existent after the thirteenth century. This was probably due 
to lesser Jewish autonomy and to the stronger power of non-Jewish 
states. Rabenu Asher, as previously mentioned, testified that in his 
time the killing of informers in Germany was common. He presented 
little evidence. Rabenu Tarn, one of the chief rabbi of northern 
France, according to Asaf in The Punishments on page 107, reported 
that an assembly of French rabbis, held in Troyes, debated the 
problems "caused by the criminals of our nation," who either 
secretly or openly informed, and by the Jews who brought their cases 
against other Jews to non-Jewish judges, thereby flouting the 
exclusive authority of rabbinical courts. The only explicit 
punishment inflicted upon those criminals was excommunication, 
which included a prohibition against speaking to them. The rabbis 
tempered the prohibition somewhat by stating that those Jews who 
feared the anger of the king or the feudal lords could speak to the 
excommunicated informers but could not use such permission as 
merely an excuse to do so. Some rabbis said that an obscure ancient 
rule against informers could in addition be inflected. In the latter 
part of the thirteenth century, according to Asaf on page 107 of 
The Punishments, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg wrote that Jews could 
kill or mutilate, by cutting out the tongue of an informer, who 
remained in a state of permanent excommunication. In only a few 
known informer cases in Germany in this time period were killing 
or mutilation inflicted. One such case concerned an informer in 
Strasbourg in the early fourteenth century. As reported by Asaf on 
page 108 of The Punishments, Rabbi Samuel Shlitzstat of Strasbourg 
sentenced an informer to death. The Jewish community applied 
to a non-Jewish judge who ordered the informer to be drowned in 
the Rhine. Some of the informer's friends then appealed to some 
powerful feudal lords and through them to the emperor. The 
friends testified in non-Jewish courts and gave signed testimony, 
apparently written in Latin. They testified that Rabbi Shlitzstat sent 
a letter to the Jews in which he said the informer should be killed. 
They also testified that he collected money from the Strasbourg 
and nearby Jewish communities to insure the drowning. The 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 143 

implication here was that the judge who gave the order to drown 
was bribed. The result in this case was that Rabbi Shlitzstat had 
to hide from the authorities for several years and thereafter escaped 
from Germany to go to Iraq. He told the president of the Iraqi Jewish 
community, David son of Hodaya, about the inequities of the Jews 
who had persecuted him. David son of Hodaya then solemnly 
excommunicated the offenders in writing. Rabbi Shlitzstat returned 
to Germany with the excommunication order. What happened upon 
his return, that is, the end of the story, is not known. From that 
time rabbinical sources reveal nothing about killings but much about 
excommunication of informers. 

Detailed information about Ashkenazi Jews in sixteenth-century 
Poland is available. These Polish Jews, as previously indicated, 
enjoyed extensive autonomy in the relatively weak Polish-Lithuanian 
Commonwealth. Because of this, killings and other punishments 
of Jewish informers, for which evidence is abundant, were 
commonplace. Rabbi Shlomo Luria, as Asaf made clear on page 
1 22 of The Punishments, stipulated that informers should be killed. 
He added: 

It is better to kill than to mutilate them, for example by cutting 
out their tongues, so as to remove the evil from our midst. It is 
also not only probable but nearly certain that a [mutilated] Jew 
would convert and, in order to take revenge, would tell incorrect 
things about Jews. I saw myself that by only mutilating them [the 
informers] Jews have greatly suffered. 

After the early seventeenth century, Polish rabbis and the Jewish 
autonomous authorities tended to employ more cautious language 
when writing about killing Jewish informers. In a case of a certain 
Jewish informer who had been expelled from the town of Pinsk and 
from all Lithuania but who appeared in Lubavitch, the Committee 
of Lithuanian Jews in its ruling used the Hebrew phrase "hatarat 
dam" ("allowing the shedding of blood"). Asaf on page 128 and 
129 of The Punishments discussed this ruling. This phrase, which 
became common in such rulings thereafter, was a bit less direct 
than an actual order to kill an informer. In this same case the 
Committee of Lithuanian Jews, after ruling that Jews who revealed 
Jewish secrets should be excommunicated even on Yom Kippur, 
stipulated, as reported by Asaf: 

In case of anybody who informs, even about Jewish money, and 
certainly in cases of bodily harm, every Jew knows the law and 
therefore there is no need to make any rules. We only are warning, 
we order every Jew who sees or hears such action, whether it 
concerns him or not, within three days to tell it to two notables 



144 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

of the town who are not connected to the informer. Otherwise 
he [that Jew who sees of hears such action] will be excommu- 
nicated himself, and the punishment of the informer will be 
applied to him. The two notables will then do what they should 
do. But if the informer is powerful and for the time being they 
[the notables] cannot do anything to him, the rabbis and notables 
will write his name in the Chronicle [of the town] so that his [the 
informer's] sons will not be circumcised, no one will marry his 
daughters and he will be excluded from all sacred matters. The 
good chief rabbis will also keep watch so that the verse "and when 
I shall avenge" [a verse occurring several times in the Pentateuch 
that supposedly means that God's revenge has been delayed but 
will come] would apply to him. 

Again, the language employed is more cautious and indirect than 
a direct order to kill an informer or a Jew who did not report an 
informer. The last sentence of the ruling is especially relevant. 

A second Polish example is found in the preserved chronicle of 
the Jewish community in Krakow. This is discussed by Asaf on page 
133 of The Punishments. This chronicle condemns Yisrael, son of 
Rabbi Aharon Welitshker, for informing on the Jews in regard to 
financial matters, robbing, using violence and committing religious 
offences that cannot be written. The condemnation continued: 

We, the notables of the community and we the most honorable 
[rabbinical court], let the Lord guard them, considered the 
honor of his family and lessened his punishment. We therefore 
condemn him only to be excommunicated in all the synagogues 
and be incapable of either bearing testimony or swearing [in 
rabbinical court]. An iron collar should be put on his neck. He 
must also give back what he took by robbery, whether it was stolen 
from individuals or from communities. His property should be 
confiscated wherever found. 

Additionally, he was ordered expelled from the town; not one of 
his descendents was ever allowed to live in that town. This tempered 
verdict was issued in the spring of 1772. 

The third Polish example is taken from the preface to a talmudic 
book, Taharat Kodesh, published in 1733 and written by Rabbi 
Benyamin, son of the important Polish religious leader, Rabbi 
Matattya. This book, to which Asaf referred on page 133 of The 
Punishments, showed that informers increased in number over a 
period of time, in spite of killings and other ferocious punishments 
meted out to them. Rabbi Benyamin bitterly complained about the 
large number of Jewish informers in his time and added that many 
Jews helped or flattered them. He asked Jews to avoid the informers. 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 145 

His proposed remedy was "to allow their blood [to be shed] so that 
we shall exterminate them totally." Rabbi Benyamin additionally 
prohibited accepting money from them for charitable purposes. He 
added that in an unspecified distant country the Jews had succeeded 
in exterminating the informers and thereby were secure in spite of 
their spending a goodly amount of money for their security. Rabbi 
Benyamin's recommendations were not cautious. More importantly, 
the Tsarist police investigations of the killing of Jewish informers 
and the many testimonies of enlightened Jews in the nineteenth 
century show that the problem of Jewish informers was not solved 
by these recommendations. 

After the division of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 
between Russia, Austria and Prussia, finalized in 1795, and after 
the resultant abolition of autonomy of Jewish communities by the 
three conquering powers, violence inflicted by Jews, especially by 
Jewish authorities, on other Jews rapidly declined. Violence virtually 
disappeared in the Prussian part of Poland and remained at about 
the same level in the areas ruled by Russia. In the Russian area, 
violence, when practiced however, was often secret. In the area ruled 
by Austria (Galicia) the situation was a bit more complex; Jewish 
violence such as assassinations of modernist rabbis occurred under 
certain conditions. 

The different levels of inter-Jewish violence in the three parts of 
divided Poland should be ascribed to the different levels of modern 
influences after the division. The Jews in the Prussian part of 
Poland were in an efficient absolutist monarchy, equipped with a 
good police and civil administration that were greatly influenced 
by modernist tendencies. The first partition of Poland occurred 
when Frederic II, the Great, the friend of Voltaire and other French 
philosophers of the age of the Enlightenment, ruled Prussia. The 
influences of the Enlightenment, at least in the ranks of Prussian 
administrators, remained strong for at least a generation after the 
death of Frederic II in 1786. Probably of equal importance was the 
fact that the Jewish Enlightenment began in Prussia, which possessed 
even before the partition of Poland a strong community of 
enlightened Jews, centered on Berlin, who at that time expressed 
themselves as much in Hebrew as in German. These enlightened 
Jews could thus be immediately understood by the majority of male 
Jews in areas annexed to Prussia, 

The Jews in the Russian area of Poland were by contrast in a 
more backward regime that had a weak and inefficient adminis- 
tration in spite of the thin veneer of the Enlightenment provided 
by Catherine II, the Great. Russia had also been a country without 
Jews for hundreds of years. The first Jews allowed to live in the 
Tsarist Empire were the Jews who lived in the annexed Polish 
territory. The notorious "Pale," the only area of Russia where 



146 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

Jews, with a few exceptions, were allowed to live until 1917, was 
simply the area of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth annexed 
to Russia. The "old Russia" kept its "purity" of being forbidden 
to Jews. Because of the absence of Jews, Russians, especially 
Russian Church leaders, had a strong tradition of anti-Semitism. 
Anti-Semitism in Russia in 1800 was worse than in any other 
country at that time. The Tsarist regime, moreover, at the beginning 
of the Polish takeover introduced special taxes on Jews, in force 
until 1905, as well as other discriminations against Jews. The 
absence of large towns and cities, except for St. Petersburg and 
Moscow which were forbidden to Jews, and the undeveloped state 
of education enabled most Jews annexed to Russia to continue their 
old customs, especially in the smaller communities, until the 1880s. 
The old customs included the persecution of heretics and the 
killing of informers. Nevertheless, the small but growing group of 
enlightened Jews found it easier to oppose these and other old 
customs under Russian rule than under the conditions of Jewish 
autonomy in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Russian rule, 
even with its deficiencies, afforded the enlightened Jews somewhat 
more protection than they previously had, enabling them at least 
to testify about killings of informers. 

The Jews in the territories annexed by Austria were in an 
intermediate situation between Prussia and Russia. After 1848 
and especially after 1867, when Austria granted a limited form of 
constitution and other civil liberties, the Jewish situation in Austria 
came to approximate more the Prussian and after the unification 
of Germany in 1871, the German model. 18 Austria and the 
Hapsburg dynasty had strong anti-Semitic tendencies that were 
prominent under Maria Theresa (1740-80), who was probably the 
most anti-Jewish ruler of eighteenth-century Europe and who was 
responsible for the largest expulsion of Jews before the Nazi era: 
she expelled about 70,000 Jews from Prague and other Bohemian 
towns in 1745. Maria Theresa had to reverse her decree and allow 
Jews to return within a short time because of the strong protests 
of her allies, Britain and Holland, upon whose subsidies she 
depended in the War of Austrian Succession. Her successor, Joseph 
II, reversed her policies and in 1782 issued a decree granting 
limited, but still significant, rights to Jews. He did this in the face 
of considerable opposition. 19 After Joseph's death in 1 790, the two 
tendencies fluctuated until Emperor Franz Joseph decided to adopt 
a pro-Jewish policy in 1867. 

The new Israeli historians have presented evidence showing that 
until the 1880s the killings of Jewish informers by Jews in the 
Tsarist Empire were numerous. In his article dealing with the new 
Israeli historians Rosen quoted the writer, Shaul Ginzberg, who 
wrote in his autobiography that during the nineteenth century 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 147 

hundreds of Jewish informers were drowned in the Dnieper, the 
largest river flowing in the "Pale." These informers were charged 
and convicted under the law of the informers simply because they 
were suspected of informing the authorities about something. 
Rosen wrote: "Like Avraham Cohen, some of them acted because 
of ideological reasons such as the wish to bring the Jewish 
community to a modern way of life." Dr David Asaf researched 
some of those affairs and said: "Some of the informers were pro- 
fessionals who gave the authorities information about tax 
concealment, but even in such cases, judging them by what amounts 
to rabbinical martial courts and their execution by what amounts 
to lynching help us to understand the conflict between the 
enlightened Jews and the Orthodox, particularly the Hassids." As 
previously shown, a Jewish informer was condemned to death in 
secret without being able to say anything in his own defense. This 
mode of execution was employed for hundreds of years until the 
recent time. 20 Rosen asked Asaf if the Jewish community regarded 
those informers as traitors. Asaf responded: 

They were not so regarded by the enlightened Jews. More than 
this, the enlightened Jews wanted the Jews to be citizens of the 
state. This included in their view paying taxes and serving in the 
army. Giving information to authorities was in many cases a 
necessary thing in their view. If you compare the situation to the 
one existing [in Israel] now [one year after the assassination of 
Rabin] then, with some changes, the present conflict is similar 
to what went on then. 

To show what was involved, Asaf recounted an affair he had 
researched involving a famous Hassidic rabbi from the town of 
Rozin, Israel Friedman, who was known as the "holy man of 
Rozin." Friedman as a major Hassidic personage was important, 
because the Hassidic movement played a major role in those assas- 
sinations. Asaf related, as reported by Rosen: 

Friedman was one of the greatest Hassidic leaders. In Jewish 
history books he is represented as a person of small scholarly 
knowledge but also as a man of power who enjoyed the delights 
of life. He was instrumental in the issuing of the law of the 
pursuer against some informers from the town of Oshitz in the 
Podolia district of the Ukraine. In February, 1836, a corpse of 
one of the persons, Yitzhak Oxman, was found beneath blocks 
of ice on the frozen river. The corpse was so mutilated, apparently 
as a result of torture, that it was difficult to identify. Only some 
time thereafter, when the corpse was taken out of its grave, were 
new witnesses able to identify it. The corpse of the other murdered 



148 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

person, Shmuel Schwatzman, disappeared. We now know that 
he was strangled while praying in the synagogue. His corpse was 
cut into pieces and burned in the oven that heated the community 
bath. Following a police investigation, in which even Tsar Nicolai 
I was interested, it was established that the Jews of the community 
where the murder was committed, including relatives of the 
murdered persons, knew perfectly well what had taken place and 
how it was carried out. Everyone stayed silent either because of 
strong discipline or because of fear. This case was one of the few 
in which a secret rabbinical court, which issues unwritten verdicts 
of the law of the pursuer and death punishments, was discovered. 
Yosef Perl, one of the chiefs of the enlightened Jews of Galicia, 
secretly supplied information to the Russian authorities in order 
to bring about the conviction of Rabbi Yisrael of Rozin. 

Asaf, who also described other Hassidic murders, said that Perl, 
who hated the Hassids, acted for reasons that he believed to be 
ideological. Rosen, in interviewing the new historians, discovered 
that the various Hassids also struggled violently with one another 
mainly because of economic interests. He wrote: "Since the Hassids 
gave money to their holy men and some of the latter adopted a 
nineteenth century way of life that rivalled the luxuries of 
contemporary kings, they were interested in the places from which 
their incomes came." 

Pre-modern Judaism was characterized by many cases of inter- 
Jewish violence, of which the few cases mentioned above are merely 
representative. These few cases, however, are sufficient to show that 
Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, both in its messianic and Haredi 
forms, is a reversion to a situation that existed before the onset of 
modernization and the loss of the type of Jewish autonomy with 
its arbitrary powers that allowed killing or otherwise severely 
punishing informers. What occurred in Jewish fundamentalism is 
not dissimilar to what occurred in other forms of fundamentalism. 
Some innovations have been made, largely to disguise true intent. 
The predominant wish ideologically is to return to the supposedly 
"good times" when everything was seen and kept in proper order. 
In the case of the Jewish messianic variety of fundamentalism, the 
idea is to use modern methods to achieve the power to re-establish 
the traditional way of life in an effectual manner. The dangers of 
Jewish fundamentalism being established in Israel as at least part 
of the ruling power are great. For non-Jews in the Middle East, 
the Arabs and especially the Palestinians, the main danger is in and 
with the messianic variety of Jewish fundamentalism. This is most 
apparent in the role of the Jewish religious settlers in the Occupied 
Territories. For Israeli Jews who will not accept the tenets of Jewish 
fundamentalism, however, all varieties are dangerous. The Jewish 



THE BACKGROUND OF RABIN'S ASSASSINATION 149 

fundamentalist attitude towards heretics is much worse than is the 
attitude towards non-Jews. This is analogous to the situation in other 
religions. A contemporary example is the attitude of the Iranian 
regime to Baha'ists, regarded as Muslim heretics, which is much 
worse than the attitude towards Christians and Jews. Our firm belief 
is that a fundamentalist Jewish regime, if it came to power in Israel, 
would treat Israeli Jews who did not accept its tenets worse than 
it would treat Palestinians. This book is an attempt to provide wider 
understanding of Jewish fundamentalism and hopefully help avert 
the danger from becoming a reality. 



Note on Bibliography 
and Related Matters 



Serious books describing a social phenomenon usually contain a bib- 
liographical listing or essay, detailing and perhaps briefly discussing 
the primary and secondary sources consulted by the authors. For 
some years we have read a significant number of books in English 
and Hebrew that are concerned with Judaism and the state of Israel. 
In our book we decided to refer only minimally to those books in 
English; we relied primarily upon the Israeli Hebrew press, basic 
Jewish religious (and in a few cases literary) texts and some learned 
Hebrew articles, published in Israeli journals and magazines. We 
identified these in our text. Our first reason for doing this is that 
Hebrew sources are, with few exceptions, the most pertinent in 
dealing with Jewish fundamentalism in Israel. We are nevertheless 
aware that the number of books that focus on aspects of or 
background to our topic, published in English and languages other 
than Hebrew, is large. We wish to offer an explanation about why 
we did not cite, and most often ignored, much of this voluminous 
literature. 

We believe that the great majority of the books on Judaism and 
Israel, published in English especially, falsify their subject matter. 
The falsification is sometimes a result of explicit lying but is mostly 
the result of omission of major facts that may create what the authors 
consider to be an adverse view of their subjects. Many of the books 
that fit into this category are comparable to much of the literature 
produced in totalitarian systems, whether religious or secular and 
whether or not embodied in a state. We do not deny that books on 
Israel and Judaism published in English have value; they may, and 
often do, contain correct and valuable information. Books about the 
USSR under Stalin or his successors written by Stalinists, books about 
Iran written by followers of Khomeini, books on Christian funda- 
mentalism written by its adherents often contain correct and valuable 
information. Many other analagous examples exist. What usually 
makes such books unreliable are not so much the lies but rather the 
purposeful omissions. Regarding Judaism and Israel, the omissions 
are more blatant and numerous in books published in English 
outside of Israel than they are in Israel's Hebrew literature. The 
omissions pertinent to our subject of Jewish fundamentalism exist 

150 



NOTE ON BIBLIOGRAPHY AND RELATED MATTERS 1 5 1 

for the same apologetic reasons as do the literary omissions in any 
totalitarian system. The information freely available in Hebrew can 
and should be used to redress apologia by omissions in English. The 
coverage in Hebrew of Jewish fundamentalism is more complete and 
is not riddled with omissions, because, as our book shows, Jewish 
fundamentalism poses an immediate threat to the beliefs and style 
of life of a majority of Israeli Jews. Jewish fundamentalism, if it 
increases in strength, could destroy Israeli democracy; this danger 
does not exist in the diaspora where Jews, even when supporting the 
worst aspects of Jewish fundamentalism, benefit from democracy and 
pluralism. In our view the state of Israel has faults that have been 
and still are caused by the nature of Zionism and by the open and 
hidden influences of Jewish fundamentalism. To exchange the 
present reality of the state of Israel for a Jewish fundamentalist state 
of either the Haredi or messianic variety would create a far worse 
situation for Jews, Palestinians and perhaps the entire Middle East. 
We believe that our book, based primarily upon Hebrew sources, 
correctly points out this danger for the first time in English. 

To document our above comments, we shall present a short list 
of important issues in Israel and in Jewish history of the diaspora 
before the modern period, which are relevant for Jewish funda- 
mentalism but are nevertheless omitted from the literature in English 
about Israel and Judaism. We shall first consider two issues, closely 
connected to Jewish fundamentalism, that are not specifically 
mentioned in our book. We shall thereafter present some issues that, 
although discussed in our book, are not mentioned in the voluminous 
literature in English. During the Labor Party primaries of the 1999 
Israeli election campaigns, accusations appeared in the Hebrew 
press claiming that fraud in the vote counts occurred in Druze and 
Arab sectors of the party. The use of such expressions should raise 
concern. Political parties in the United States and Britain do not 
specify Jewish, non-Jewish or similar sectors. Readers of the Israeli 
Hebrew press know that an Arab or Druze, that is, a non-Jew who 
is an Israeli citizen, even if living in Tel- Aviv or Haifa, cannot belong 
to the Labor Party branch of her or his neighborhood; that person 
must belong to one of the two sectors that exist for Druze and Arabs 
respectively. Jews cannot belong to one of those sectors. 
Consequently, an Arab living in Tel- Aviv votes in the primaries of 
the Israeli Labor Party only as a member of the Arab sector and not 
together with her or his neighbors. Other types of sectors also exist, 
based upon social structure in the Labor Party. The kibbutzim 
sector is one example. In these other sectors membership fluctuates 
according to the natural movements of population, not according 
to racist criteria. A kibbutz member of the Labor Party who leaves 
the Kibbutz to settle in Tel- Aviv becomes a member of the party 
branch of that person's new neighborhood; conversely, a Tel-Aviv 
member of the Labor Party who joins a kibbutz automatically 



152 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

becomes a member of the kibbutz sector. In contrast, an Arab 
member of the Labor Party remains an Arab wherever that person 
lives, confined ethnically or more precisely religiously. Such a 
proposal for the operation of political parties in the United States 
or Great Britain would be quickly labeled and condemned correctly 
as anti-Semitic. Such a proposal would be roundly discussed in the 
press and in other literature concerned with the United States and/or 
Great Britain. In the voluminous descriptions in English of Israel, 
this phenomenon, although known in Israel, is almost never 
mentioned. 

The probable reasons for the above omission are most likely the 
same as those for other similar omissions. The first and most 
important probable reason is that many Jews and those who 
sympathize with them wish to avoid comparisons between what 
rights Jews as a minority in the diaspora demand for themselves and 
what rights Jews deny to non-Jews in those areas where Jews are a 
majority and wield the power. We believe that Jewish fundamentalism 
justifies, explicitly and unconsciously as a believed survival tactic, 
both the discrimination and its cover-up. As noted in our book, Jewish 
fundamentalism in Israel influences most of society. Its influence is 
especially significant in regard to the principles of Israeli state 
policies, but its hidden and often clear-cut influence upon a majority 
of Jews in the diaspora is strong. Two additional reasons in our view 
account for omissions of vital facts in the English discussion of 
phenomena in Israel that could be disturbing to many people. A 
hidden, and sometimes not so hidden, assumption made in much 
of the English literature about Judaism and about Israel as a Jewish 
state is that Jews are morally superior to all other nations. This is 
the most important belief of Jewish fundamentalists who condemn 
almost everything "not Jewish" mostly because it is non-Jewish. 
Any discussion of the fact that many Jews, when they are able, 
practice the same kind of discrimination against non-Jews that some 
non-Jews practice against Jews could be detrimental to the theory 
of Jewish moral superiority. Although we believe this is part of racist 
theory, which we oppose, we understand that unfortunately human 
beings, including Jews, often have xenophobic tendencies influenced 
by historical circumstances. Thus, Jews can and should be viewed 
within the same context as other human beings and should in this 
regard work to eradicate Jewish xenophobia by exposing it in its 
present and past forms. The second reason emanates from writers 
who are apologists for and from other advocates of the Israeli political 
left. The Labor Party is Israel has consistently practiced blatant 
racism. Likud, the most important party of the Israeli right, has not 
practiced racism so severely and generally as has the Labor Party. 
As opposed to the Labor Party situation, Arabs have been, and still 
are, able to be members of Likud in their own neighborhood 
branches. The idea that the Israeli right wing is in this particular case 



NOTE ON BIBLIOGRAPHY AND RELATED MATTERS 1 53 

better than the Labor Party is abhorrent to the dogmatists of and 
apologists for the left just as in the 1 930s the idea that many practices 
in Great Britain were better than those of Stalin was abhorrent to 
fellow travelers. The refuge in both cases was and is a consistent 
omission of facts that do not fit into the dogma. 

A similar case in point is kibbutz membership in Israel. The 
kibbutz is one of the most admired, especially by leftist apologists, 
Israeli phenomena. It is a fact, widely known and discussed in Israel, 
that only Jews can be kibbutz members. Non-Jews who wish to 
become kibbutz members must not only acquire the approval of the 
kibbutz members; they must, as a condition of joining, convert to 
Judaism. The Israeli Chief Rabbinate has established conversion 
schools for non-Jews who wish to join kibbutzim. One of the 
conditions for conversion to Judaism of women in this as in other 
situations is that the female convert must be observed naked in a 
purification bath by three rabbis. Some of the other conditions for 
conversion of those non-Jews desirous of joining kibbutzim are 
lighter than are conditions for other potential converts. The Israeli 
Hebrew press has often focused upon the degree of difference in 
conversion procedures and has also mentioned repeatedly that to date 
not one Palestinian has become a kibbutz member. This specific, 
clearly influenced by Jewish fundamentalism, is almost always 
omitted in English language books published about and media 
coverage of Israel. We need not empha *ze the wide discussion that 
would ensue if a British or American institution allowed Jews to 
become members only if they converted to Christianity. 

Scholars and news media people who purport to describe Israel 
authoritatively have, as previously indicated, systematically ignored 
by omission critical phenomena, discussed in our book. Some 
examples of this follow. In Chapter 1 of our book we mentioned that 
the concept of Jewish blood bound together the Israeli secular right 
wing and religious Jews. This concept, which deems the blood of a 
killed or wounded Jew to be infinitely greater in value than the 
blood of a killed or wounded non-Jew, is of supreme importance in 
Israeli politics. The Netanyahu government in 1998 refused, even 
when pushed by the United States government, to release Palestinian 
prisoners who had killed Jews, whether they were soldiers killed in 
a clash or civilians murdered in a terrorist attack. The Jewish blood 
concept was the only possible reason. The same Netanyahu 
government, as well as some previous Israeli governments, have not 
objected to freeing Palestinian prisoners who had killed other 
Palestinians. The Palestinians killed were usually presumed to be 
agents of the Israeli secret police. The same situation has existed in 
regard to the Israeli security zone in southern Lebanon and to the 
South Lebanese Army. The main reason for creating those entities, 
which have prevented a cease-fire occurring between Israel and 
Lebanon, was the Israeli desire, influenced by Jewish fundamental- 



154 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

ism, to save "Jewish blood." A majority of Israeli Jews have paid little 
attention to Lebanese, who have been killed, whether they were 
members of the South Lebanese Army or simply inhabitants of this 
zone. Bursts of anguish and even protests, on the other hand, have 
accompanied almost every Jewish casualty. Israeli protesters 
demanding that Israel leave Lebanon have mentioned only the 
Israeli casualties. Usually, only those Israeli Jews who have openly 
opposed Jewish fundamentalism in all its aspects, such as Israel 
Shahak, one of the authors of this book, have mentioned the Lebanese 
casualties. The politically important distinction between Jewish 
blood and non-Jewish blood is well-known to most Israelis but is 
ignored by almost all those who write about Israel and its policies. 
As also noted in Chapter 1, Rabbi Yoseph, who commands the 
unquestioned allegiance often Shas members of the Knesset, argued 
in a published article that Israel is not sufficiently strong to destroy 
Christian churches on its territory and should therefore return some 
of the occupied territory to the Palestinians. Otherwise, Rabbi 
Yoseph contended, Jews might be killed in a war that could erupt. 
We pointed out that most writers who discussed Rabbi Yoseph's 
alleged dovish leanings falsified by omitting his reasons for advocating 
concessions. In addition to emphasizing Israeli weakness, Rabbi 
Yoseph expressed willingness to command the destruction of 
idolatrous, Christian churches if Israel and the Jews were sufficiently 
strong to do this without serious damage to Jews. Rabbi Yoseph thus 
illustrated the fierce and visible hatred of Christianity and Christians 
so evident among fundamentalists Jews and, to a lesser extent, 
among many other Israeli Jews of the political right. Although dis- 
crimination against and persecution of Jews in Christian countries 
has helped to persuade some secular Jews to accept this funda- 
mentalist attitude, it is not the sole explanation. Oriental Jewish rabbis, 
and to a lesser extent their followers who came from Muslim countries 
wherein they were generally not persecuted by Christians, have 
expressed more hate of Christianity and its symbols than the fun- 
damentalist European rabbis and their followers who were persecuted 
by Christians. In dealing with political factors in our book, we did 
not specify many of the often petty forms of hatred of Christianity 
that are officially approved. One case in point is that Israeli 
educational authorities removed the international plus sign from the 
textbooks of elementary arithmetic used in the first grades of Israeli 
schools. Allegedly, this plus sign, which is a cross, could religiously 
corrupt little Jewish children. Instead of the offending cross, the 
authorities substituted a capital "T." This substitution was made 
some years after Israel became a state; the influence of Jewish fun- 
damentalism was responsible. If this substitution had been made by 
the Taliban in Afghanistan, by the Iranian regime or by China 
during the cultural revolution, it would probably have been discussed 
at length. In contrast, this easily discoverable fact has been omitted 



NOTE ON BIBLIOGRAPHY AND RELATED MATTERS 155 

in English-language articles and books concerned with Israeli Jewish 
society and Judaism. This omission is but one piece of the existent 
evidence that most books of this genre are unreliable. 

In Chapter 2 we pointed to specific acts of discrimination against 
and abuse of women perpetrated by Jewish fundamentalists. 
Seemingly unimpressed by the Israeli Hebrew discussion of and the 
Israeli Jewish feminist criticism of this discrimination and abuse, 
writers of English-language books and articles about Israel have 
rarely mentioned this phenomenon. They have not acknowledged 
that until modern times most Jewish women were kept illiterate and 
denied education by command of the rabbis. They and others have 
condemned abuses of women in Iran and other countries but have 
refused to specify the even more abusive acts against women in Israel. 
Jewish feminists have instead celebrated in their writings the few 
important Jewish women mentioned in the Bible and the one woman 
mentioned in the Talmud, Bruria, the wife of the second-century 
ad sage, Rabbi Meir. The diaspora Jewish feminists and other 
English-language writers have neglected any reference to the 
disparaging stories about women in talmudic literature; they have 
also failed to admit that from the time of Bruria until the advent of 
modern influences upon Jews in western Europe in the seventeenth 
century not one Jewish woman was sufficiently important to be 
emphasized as a leading figure in Jewish history. (This can be 
compared to the numerous women who became leading figures in 
many areas, including religion, in Western Christendom in the same 
time period, in spite of Christianity's well-known discrimination 
against women.) The inescapable conclusion is that English-language 
sources are unreliable, not only in the study of the Jewish funda- 
mentalist attitude towards women but also in the more general 
study of the status of women in historical Judaism. 

In discussing the topic of Jewish blood in Chapter 2, we quoted 
both the previously mentioned Rabbi Yoseph and the former chief 
rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, both of whom ordered 
pious Jews not to accept blood donations from non-Jews unless 
their lives were at risk. These two eminent rabbis, as well as others 
inside and outside of Israel who agree with this view did not invent 
this opinion. This and other similar opinions, existent from the 
beginning of blood transfusions, are based upon a talmudic 
prohibition that does not allow a non-Jewish nurse to breast feed a 
Jewish child. The cited reason for this prohibition is that the milk 
from a non-Jewish woman would have an adverse effect upon a Jewish 
child. In Chapter 2 we quoted the discussion of the Jewish blood 
topic that was published in 1995 not only in Israel's most widely 
read daily Hebrew newspaper but in other Hebrew newspapers as 
well. We can assume that readers of this book who are not literate 
in Hebrew and who were not previously told about such discussion 
in the Hebrew press would be unaware of this prohibition of pious 



156 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

Jews accepting blood transfusions from non-Jews and sometimes even 
from secular Jews. This prohibition is not to be found in English- 
language articles or books about Judaism or Israeli Jewish society. 
(Some fundamentalist Jews may discuss this topic among themselves, 
but they limit that discussion to their own groupings and do not write 
about it for publication in English.) It would be absurd to suggest 
that in the last years of the twentieth century scholars, writers and 
others from around the world would not discuss and attack an 
analogous edict, issued by highest ranking Christian Church leaders, 
prohibiting Christians from accepting blood transfusions from Jews. 
The prohibition is not a secret; it has been openly discussed in the 
Israeli Hebrew press. This is yet another example of distortion by 
omission, which makes English-language coverage of various aspects 
of Israeli Jewish society unreliable. 

In Chapter 3 we briefly discussed how followers of Rabbis Yoseph 
and Shach attempted to use magic against one another. This occurred 
after the struggle between these two leading rabbis became intense. 
The political significance here transcended the Yoseph-Shach 
disputation; the alleged use of magic is part of the deep division 
between Israel A and Israel B, which are defined previously in both 
our text and glossary. Members of Israel B, following some historic 
Jewish customs, believe in magic and witchcraft; they often practice 
it themselves or follow directives supposedly derived from it by 
rabbis and cabbalists. (Books in Hebrew detailing instructions for 
spells and witchcraft recipes have been best sellers in Israel for many 
years.) Individuals who are reputed to achieve success by use of magic 
frequently obtain political power in Israel. Most Israeli political 
pundits are agreed that one of the important reasons for Netanyahu's 
victory in the 1 996 election was the exclusive blessing he received 
during the campaign from the cabbalist Rabbi Kaduri, and the firm 
refusals of many Jewish magicians and cabbalists to bless Peres. (Only 
the Hassidic Belzer rabbi said that he was neutral regarding Peres.) 
Rabbi Kaduri has remained to date a widely reported, highly visible 
Hollywood type star in the Israeli Hebrew press. He was at the 
center of media attention when he descended below the surface of 
the sea in Eilat in a device, usually used to allow tourists to see 
underwater sea life, and supposedly instituted spells in order to 
avert an earthquake that was predicted by scientists. He claimed to 
have diverted the earthquake from Jews to non-Jews. Many Israeli 
Jews believed this claim, because the predicted earthquake was light 
in Eilat but was much more severe in upper Egypt. 

Another example of the popularity in Israel of magic was evident 
in the circumstances surrounding the 1999 trial in the District Court 
of Jerusalem of a major Shas Party politician, Aryeh Der'i. Der'i was 
convicted and sentenced for taking bribes in spite of tens of amulets 
hung on his body and blessed by the most outstanding cabbalists, 
who additionally engaged in other magic ceremonies on Der'i's 



NOTE ON BIBLIOGRAPHY AND RELATED MATTERS 157 

behalf. At the same time of this trial a scientific congress on the use 
of magic and witchcraft in Judaism was held in Jerusalem. Tom Segev, 
a columnist for Haaretz and one of Israel's best known authors, wrote 
that the use of magic by Jews was nothing new in Judaism. In his 
March 26, 1999, Hebrew-language Haaretz article, Segev transcribed 
a magical recipe found in a book, composed in talmudic times (ad 
200-500) but still popular in the Diaspora in the eighteenth century. 
This recipe, which was devised to confuse a judge and cause him to 
acquit unjustly a person who used magic, called for the following: 
"Slaughter a lion cub with a copper knife. Gather its blood; tear out 
its heart and put the blood into it. Then, write the names of angels 
on the cub's face, and wipe the names with three year-old wine. Mix 
the wine with the blood. Next, take three heaps of perfume (names 
omitted). After purifying yourself, stand before the planet Venus at 
night with the perfume and the blood, which must be put on fire." 
This act would supposedly compel the bewitched judge to acquit. 
Segev reported that the Israeli scientists participating in this Congress 
believed magic to be "an inseparable part of Judaism - used in past 
intrigues involving rabbis." To support this view, Segev quoted a 
saying in the Palestinian Talmud attributing the large number of High 
Priests during the Second Temple period to the fact that High 
Priests often killed one another by using witchcraft. This opinion 
expressed in the Palestinian Talmud is probably incorrect; the large 
number of High Priests during this period should most likely be 
attributed to bribery and other political actions of secular (mostly 
Jewish) authorities of time connected with making appointments. 
This opinion, which is not quoted in English-language writings on 
Judaism, nevertheless indicates the wide use of witchcraft by Jews' 
attempting to kill one another in this time period. The typical 
picture, presented in English-language works, of the pious Jews of 
the third period of Jewish history is on balance invalid. The picture 
of the pious Jew of talmudic times, standing at night before a planet 
and attempting to perform magic rites, is more accurate and can help 
us understand the reality of Israeli Jewish society better than the 
fictional description offered by apologists. The use of magic in 
everyday life is also common in certain Jewish neighborhoods of New 
York, London, Paris and other cities. 

In spite of its obvious political importance and social significance, 
this aspect of Judaism in modern times remains as widely unreported 
in English, and thus as unknown to those who do not read Hebrew, 
as the past use of magic and witchcraft. In all known societies some 
individuals have indulged, and still do indulge, in magic. The 
misguided attempt to hide this past and present tendency, which is 
widespread in Israel, has infested the English-language histories of 
the Jews. The substitution of apologetics for historical fact renders 
these history texts at least unreliable and perhaps unfit for study. 



158 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

In Chapters 4 and 5 we dealt with the religious Jewish settlers in 
territories occupied by Israel since 1967 and with Gush Emunim, 
the movement that produced the settlers. Despite the attention given 
to the issues of Israeli settlements in the territories, English-language 
coverage has almost totally neglected the two major considerations, 
without which proper understanding of this overall topic is impossible. 
The first consideration is that the urge to settle has been theologi- 
cally motivated and is a manifestation of Jewish fundamentalism. In 
discussions of the obligations that people must obey in countries ruled 
or influenced by Muslim fundamentalists the religious reasons are 
highlighted. In most English-language discussions of Jewish religious 
settlements, however, the religious reasons are usually either totally 
missing or are replaced with biblical quotations, uttered by the 
settlers. In our text we showed that the real motivating factors for 
the religious settlers, some of whom have moved to improbable 
sites, have minimal connections to the Bible. The real reasons 
emanate instead from a special idea of Jewish fundamentalism. This 
idea asserts that the messiah will arrive soon and postulates that the 
world is already in the messianic age. 

We began Chapter 4 by asserting that messianic ideology, as a 
radical part of Jewish fundamentalism, is based upon the differences 
and opposition between Jews and non-Jews rather than simply 
between Jews and Arabs (or Muslims) . Writers of English-language 
books, articles and book reviews have rarely mentioned this basic 
tenet, the major exceptions being those writers who have composed 
the invalid, out-of-context, virulent and poisonous anti-Semitic 
literature. The published reviews of Yehoshafat Harkabi's book, 
Israel's Fateful Hour, provide a good illustration of this point. The 
original Hebrew edition of this book was first published in Israel; 
the English edition was published thereafter in the United States in 
1988. Harkabi's book received wide attention in the United States 
because of its analysis of Israeli politics in the 1980s and its emphasis 
upon differences between the Labor Party and Likud in foreign 
politics. In one crucial chapter, from which we quoted and 
paraphrased in our text, Harkabi analyzed some major issues of Jewish 
fundamentalism and stressed the importance of messianic ideology 
within that context. Harkabi's book was extensively reviewed in 
American publications, but only one reviewer in a small circulation 
progressive publication referred to this crucial chapter. The other 
reviewers in American publications avoided any mention of this 
chapter and/or its substance. Reviewers in Israel emphasized this 
chapter in their comments. The difference in reviewing between the 
United States and Israel is telling. 

In maintaining that differences and opposition exist between Jews 
and non-Jews, messianic ideology continues to be the primary 
motivating factor for Gush Emunim and its major supporter, the 
National Religious Party. Those who have written about Israeli 



NOTE ON BIBLIOGRAPHY AND RELATED MATTERS 1 59 

Jewish society and about Judaism but have avoided mention of this 
have distorted understanding. The significance here is most striking 
when the broad support, both direct and indirect, for Gush Emunim 
is considered. About one-half of Israel's Jewish population supports 
Gush Emunim. The support, especially monetary, from Jews in the 
diaspora is also of great importance. Many Orthodox and other 
Jews as well in New York City and elsewhere have been and are 
encouraged to assist Gush Emunim by what they read in the largest 
circulation American Jewish weekly newspaper, the Jewish Press. 
Published in Brooklyn, the Jewish Press has been and continues to 
be an editorial advocate of Gush Emunim, often presenting op-ed 
articles written by leading Gush Emunim spokesmen. New York City 
and New York State politicians regularly seek backing of the Jewish 
Press during electoral campaigns. Not only have Jewish Press editorial 
writers advocated messianic ideology; they have also expressed 
admiration of Yigal Amir, the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin. The New 
York Times, which is read and probably influences many American 
Jews, has published in-depth analyses of Christian and Muslim fun- 
damentalism but has refrained from presenting similar articles 
describing Jewish fundamentalism or even advocacies printed in 
the Jewish Press. Even so-called liberal American periodicals, such 
as the Nation and the New York Review of Books, which have published 
editorial comments and articles upholding and advocating Palestinian 
rights, have neglected to present analyses of Jewish fundamentalism 
in their own country. Readers of these and most other periodicals 
in the United States, and in other countries as well, would not 
know, unless they read books and articles published in Hebrew in 
Israel, that Gush Emunim's goal is to build a "sacred society" whose 
nuclei are the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. It is 
insufficient, if not folly, to advocate Palestinian rights without under- 
standing and referring to the principal cause of the denial of those 
rights: Jewish fundamentalism in general and the messianic variety 
in particular. 

The Goldstein massacre, discussed in Chapter 6, was inadequately 
covered in the English press. That Israeli Jewish society was divided 
in its attitude towards the massacre was evident in the Hebrew but 
not in the English press and literature. Before the massacre, 
Goldstein's refusal as a doctor on religious grounds to treat non- 
Jewish patients, including soldiers serving with him in the army, was, 
although mentioned briefly, treated lightly in the English coverage. 
Goldstein clearly derived his views from fundamentalist interpreta- 
tions of sacred Hebrew texts. The English coverage indicated that 
he merely followed the teachings of Rabbi Meir Kahane, a whipping 
boy of the American press. In reality, Goldstein's views were more 
broadly based and centered in Jewish fundamentalism. Having 
immigrated to Israel as an adult, Goldstein, prior to his arrival in 
Israel, had been influenced by the "Lubovitcher Rebbe" and his 



160 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

influential disciple, Rabbi Ginsburgh. His attitude, moreover, was 
condoned by important, Israeli politicians and the Minister of 
Defense. Articles in the Hebrew press, to which we referred in our 
text, discussed these points in depth; the English coverage avoided 
mention of much of this. 

In Chapter 7 we showed how well-documented features of Jewish 
fundamentalism during the past 800 years, the third and longest 
period of Jewish history, have influenced and continue to influence 
contemporary Jews in the state of Israel and in the diaspora as well. 
Both the popular and more scholarly and renowned, standard Jewish 
histories, written in English, omit most of these features. The historic 
features of Jewish fundamentalism were manifest in the Rabin assas- 
sination and in the reactions to it. Because of omission, distortion 
and lack of criticism of Jewish fundamentalism, the English-language 
coverage could not and did not put the Rabin assassination in the 
correct context and thus was misleading. 

Important issues are involved here, all of which are omitted in the 
standard Jewish histories. The first of these, well-known to serious 
students of the third period of Jewish history and especially to those 
who have knowledge of Jewish religious law and Orthodoxy, is that, 
before being affected by outside modern influences, Jewish society 
was not tolerant. On the contrary, autonomous Jewish authorities 
persecuted deviants, perhaps more than did Christian and Muslim 
authorities in their respective religions and certainly more than did 
pagan, Buddhist and Hindu authorities. The intolerant attitudes and 
activities, enshrined in the sacred texts of Jewish fundamentalism 
in all its varieties, influenced the behavior and politics of Jews, 
especially when they had autonomous power. To oppose the current 
dangers posed by Jewish fundamentalism, it is first necessary to expose 
its historical basis. As we have repeatedly stated, most writers of books 
on Judaism in English have not done this. Influenced by their 
heritage, many Jews have unfortunately either remained indifferent 
to the oppression of Palestinians in and by the State of Israel or have 
at times criticized acts of oppression as posing possible danger to 
Jews. Some of these individuals, for example, condemn the use of 
torture as being unconditionally inhumane when used by states 
other than Israel, but they argue pragmatically that its use by Israeli 
authorities is not in Israel's best interest because of worldwide public 
opinion. Many of these same people in the United States are zealous 
in advocating and fighting for the separation of religion and state in 
their own country, but they react differently in regard to Israel. 
They do not criticize, indeed they most often support, the Israeli 
Ministry of Religion, which is almost always controlled by Jewish 
religious parties influenced by Jewish fundamentalism, for allotting 
only 2 per cent of its budget to non-Jews when nearly 20 per cent 
of Israel's citizenry consists of Muslims and Christians. Both in 
Israel and in the diaspora the relatively few Jews who have attempted 



NOTE ON BIBLIOGRAPHY AND RELATED MATTERS 161 

to defend non-Jews against discrimination and oppression by Jews 
have been those who have been influenced by modern theories of 
justice. The fact that the majority of Jews do not protest against, but 
actually support, Jewish discrimination against non-Jews, especially 
in the Jewish state, indicates, at least to some extent, the conscious 
and unconscious influence of Jewish fundamentalism. We believe 
that attempts to hide historical reality in Judaism and Jewish societies 
were wrong when Jews were discriminated against and persecuted 
in most countries. By the end of the twentieth century, when Jews 
have achieved greater power in many societies than any minority 
group of comparable numbers and when a Jewish state with nuclear 
weapons is protected by the United States, falsification by omission 
of Jewish history is purely adverse and totally unacceptable. The 
nearly total absence of discussion of the above intolerant aspects of 
the Jewish past and present in English-language books caused us to 
dispense with a traditional bibliographical listing or essay. 

The issue of Jewish normalcy and the exceptions to it require 
examination. Jews in many instances oppressed their own people as 
other people did. During the same time period, for example, that rabbis 
ordered the hands of Jewish offenders to be cut, Spanish judges, as 
well as judges in most Christian and Muslim courts, did likewise. 
Rabbis ordered Jewish offenders put into stocks in the Polish- 
Lithuanian Commonwealth just as non-Jewish authorities used the 
stock as a feature of regular punishment throughout Europe and in 
the American colonies. The systematic killing of informers, enjoined 
by eminent rabbis as a religious duty, has no parallel in other societies. 
Killing of informers has nevertheless occurred and still occurs in other 
societies and, as is the case in Sicilian society, is often well known. 
Scholarly historical works, historical novels and the classical literature 
in general of many countries and societies depict the sometimes- 
employed punishment of killing informers. In contrary fashion, the 
major Jewish historians who have written about the third period of 
Jewish history, for example, Salo W. Baron, Simon Dubnow and 
Yitzhak Baer, have omitted such references in their works. Other highly 
regarded Jewish historians who have focused upon the Polish- 
Lithuanian Commonwealth, Christian Spain and Germany have 
done likewise. Numerous Israeli scholars, who have written in Hebrew 
and from whom we quoted and paraphrased in our text, have in 
contrast displayed more honesty in their scholarship by including 
examples of the systematic killing by Jews of Jewish informers. 
Consequently, those readers who are not literate in Hebrew (or have 
not been told in detail about books in Hebrew about Jewish history) 
must have distorted perceptions of this aspect of Jewish history. This 
reflection solidified our resolve not to include a traditional biblio- 
graphical listing or essay. 

The distortions, largely by omission, in the English-language 
histories of the third period of Jewish history are greater and more 



162 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

severe than are those of the first and second periods. The reason for 
this is obvious. Because Judaism and Jewish history are so important 
for the history and theology of Christianity until and shortly after 
the time of Jesus, Christian historians and biblical scholars, often 
critical in their writings, dealt with Jewish history and Israelite society 
during the first two periods. The better Jewish historians of those 
two periods have felt obligated to follow trends established in 
scholarship in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; they have 
engaged in critical discussion, even while complaining about what 
they regarded as hostile tendencies of Christians who wrote about 
Jewish history. Few Christian or Muslim scholars have been or are 
interested in Jewish history between AD 70 and modern times, the 
third period. Apologetic writing of Jewish history is not unique. 
Most national histories include apologetic writings. The writing in 
English by Jews of Jewish history has remained far more retarded 
than have the writings of other national histories. A comparison that 
illustrates this point is the difference between the development of 
historical writing by American historians of United States history and 
the lack of development in the writing of Jewish history, especially 
of the third period. In recent decades standard United States history 
textbooks have included numerous negative features, previously 
omitted, of past discrimination and oppression of African Americans, 
Native Americans, women and other disadvantaged minority groups. 
As previously reiterated, most books in English of Jewish history, 
especially of the third period, continue to omit negative features of 
discrimination and oppression of both Jews and non-Jews by Jews. 
The harmful effects of these omissions remain. 

We are finally troubled by the near unanimity in standard English- 
language Jewish histories regarding issues involving "Jewish interest." 
Whereas the Israeli new historians of the 1980s and 1990s have 
sparked fruitful debate about basic issues not only of the past century 
in regard to Palestine but of the entire course of Jewish history, 
previous historians who wrote in English have omitted facts and 
disputations over interpretations of sensitive items. Having already 
detailed much of this in our bibliographical note, we, in attempting 
to illustrate our point, shall here present only one additional example. 
The famous scholar Gershom Scholem, early in his career raised an 
important intellectual issue about the nature of Judaism; soon 
thereafter he, together with numerous other scholars, dropped it. 
This issue then became virtually unknown to people who did not 
know Hebrew. In his first book in English about Jewish mysticism, 
Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, based upon a previous set of 
lectures delivered in New York City, first published in 1941 and 
reprinted many times, Scholem questioned whether Jews who 
believed in Cabbala had preserved the belief in monotheism that had 
been previously so characteristic of Judaism. In his seventh lecture 
towards the end of section five of the book, Scholem, after describing 



NOTE ON BIBLIOGRAPHY AND RELATED MATTERS 163 

the process, which according to the Lurianic Cabbala takes place 
by Jewish initiative within God, wrote: "To reconcile this process 
with the monotheistic doctrine, which was dear to the Kabbalists as 
it was to every Jew, became the task of the theorists of Kabbalistic 
theosoply. Although they applied themselves bravely to it, it cannot 
be said that they were completely successful." These two convoluted 
sentences implied that the most popular form of Cabbala, still 
believed by many Jews in Israel and in the diaspora, is not 
monotheistic. Actually, Scholem refrained from mentioning that 
many Jewish opponents of Cabbala, before it became dominant 
around 1550 and during the Jewish Enlightenment, asked the same 
question more clearly and expressed more sharply their opposition 
to the predominant Lurianic form on the ground that it denied 
monotheism. Since then, scholars who have written in English about 
Judaism, including Scholem himself in later books, have not, with 
few exceptions, questioned whether Judaism in all its forms and all 
times was monotheistic and/or whether many pious Jews were 
believers in monotheism. (Raphael Patai was one exception. In 
Chapters 5 to 8 of his book, The Hebrew Goddess, published in 1967, 
Patai raised this question. Israel Shahak, another exception, did 
likewise in his more recent book, Jewish History, Jewish Religion.) The 
scholars who have written in English about Judaism have, again with 
few exceptions, not considered in their books the even more important 
question of whether Judaism throughout its entire history has had 
fixed tenets. 

We are aware that the books we have not put into a bibliography 
contain useful data. We nevertheless believe that these books are guilty 
of purposeful omission resulting in grave distortion and do not 
necessarily deserve to be listed in a bibliography. These books 
anyway can be easily found in other bibliographies. We append this 
note in lieu of a traditional bibliography in protest against what too 
often happens in Jewish studies outside Israel. 



Notes 



Preface 

1 . Baruch Kimmerling, review of Yohanan Peres and Efraim Ya'ar Yukhtman, 
Between Agreement and Dispute: Democracy and Peace in Israeli Society (Jerusalem: 
The Israeli Institute for Democracy, 1998) in Hebrew. Kimmerling carefully 
reviewed and analyzed the data, assembled between 1993 and 1995 by Peres 
and Yukhtman. 



Introduction 

1 . We explain this to some extent in this book. This is explained in greater detail 
in Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion (London: Pluto Press, 1 994) . 

2. The Romans actually adopted the term Judea by employing the form of 
"provincia Judea" in describing Palestine, which in the Bible is called by other 
names. 

3. The Hebrew word for gentiles is "goyim," a word which, as used in the 
Bible, simply means nations. The singular "goy" in the Bible was - and is - 
applied to the Israelites themselves. 



Chapter 1 

1 . Some Israeli Jews refuse to enter a synagogue as a principled protest against 
the Jewish religion; this phenomenon is rarely found in non-Israeli Jewish 
communities but can be compared to the attitude of some radicals to 
Christianity, for example, in France. 

2. The Kishinev pogrom in 1903 in the Ukraine section of the Russian Empire 
was the first major pogrom in eastern Europe after a lapse of many years. 
Kishinev became the symbolic term of and for murders of Jews everywhere. 

3. The religious reasons centered upon the fulfillment of religious observance. 
Common to almost all pious Jews who emigrated to Palestine in pre-Zionist 
times was the belief that all religious observances connected with agriculture 
could not be fulfilled outside of but rather only in the land of Israel. Wanting 
to fulfill as many commandments as possible, therefore, these Jews thus 
emigrated to Palestine. 



Chapter 4 



Pollard, an American Jew very devoted to Israel, was in the 1980s a highly 
placed employee of US Naval Intelligence. He gave many intelligence secrets 
(not only concerning Middle Eastern affairs) to Israel. He received a severe 
prison sentence in the US. Many American and Israeli Jews, and since the 

164 



NOTES 165 

mid-1990s also the Israeli government, have tried to persuade the US President 
to reduce his sentence or give him a pardon. However, these attempts have 
been unsuccessful, due to the strong opposition of US intelligence chiefs. 



Chapter 5 



1 . Hardelim is an acronym of two Hebrew words that translated into English 
are "Haredi-nationalist" and "mustard-like." 

2. Some religious Jews acquire religious study deferments and are excused from 
military service. 

3 . After the Rabin assassination, Hesder Yeshivot colleagues of the assassin, Yigal 
Amir, told members of the press how Amir beat Palestinians in the worst 
manner. They did not disguise the fact that all members of their unit beat 
Palestinians more than did soldiers in regular units. 

4. All NRP members do not adhere to the messianic religious right-wing trend. 



Chapter 7 

1 . "Rabenu" is the Hebrew word for "our rabbi." It was an honorary title given 
only to a few of the most famous rabbis. 

2. Before and during talmudic times, rabbis in the Holy Land who were 
empowered to teach authoritatively and to serve as judges were appointed by 
"laying of hands." A rabbi, already so appointed, laid his hands on the head 
of a candidate and pronounced a sacred formula designed to transmit a 
sacred power, supposedly derived from Moses although not mentioned in the 
Bible. Rabbis in other countries never were given this form of appointment. 
Even if diaspora rabbis came to the Holy Land and after a long stay of study 
received the "laying of hands" appointment, they were forbidden to transmit 
it to other diaspora rabbis not in the Holy Land. The students of diaspora 
rabbis, who themselves became rabbis but did not go to the Holy Land, were, 
therefore, unable to judge in many matters under the normal law. The last 
Palestinian rabbis with powers derived from "laying of hands" seemingly 
disappeared in the tenth century without leaving successors. 

3. This rule, which was never abrogated, seemingly applies to Torah scrolls used 
by Conservative and Reform rabbis. Many Orthodox rabbis in Israel have 
proclaimed that Reform and Conservative rabbis are heretics. Some of these 
Orthodox rabbis have publicly stated that Reform Jews are worse than heretics. 

4. One example of these freely discussed issues is: After the Great Flood, how 
did animals who could not swim well and far reach islands in the 
Mediterranean? 

5. One example of such theological problems is: What is God by his very nature 
incapable of doing? 

6. Israel Shahak, one of the authors of this book, was present as a child in Warsaw, 
Poland, in early 1939 at a funeral of a Jewish heretic, the second cousin of 
his father. (He also heard this story confirmed by family members later.) At 
the funeral the immediate family members, including the father, put on the 
white garments that pious Jews wear on the holidays and rejoiced. One of 
Shahak's friends who came from Alexandria, Egypt, after hearing this story, 
recalled a similar Jewish funeral in Alexandria in the early 1940s with the family 
dressed in white. 

7 . Rabbi Samuel the Prince was so called, because he was a minister and a general 
in the kingdom of Granada. 



166 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

8. The Karaites denied the authority of the Talmud and only accepted the 
Bible. Rabbi Yoseph ben Faruj, who was made the head of the Jews in Spain 
and given the title of Prince, expelled the Karaites. 

9. A punishment considered to be similar to the kuneh was the putting of an 
iron collar on the neck of a Jewish criminal. The criminal then would have 
to walk or pace with this iron collar. 

10. This important background is unfortunately not mentioned in the major 
historical studies of the Jews in the United States or in other countries to which 
Jews immigrated in the nineteenth century. The background is likewise not 
mentioned in those romantic, apologetic works that purport to describe the 
lives of first-generation Jewish immigrants. Many characteristics of the Jews 
in the United States and elsewhere were probably affected by this background. 

11. This letter is described and partially quoted in Meir Balaban, The History of 
the Frankist Movement (Tel-Aviv, 1934 in Hebrew, p. 128). The letter was 
published in full in Rabbi Yaakov Emden's Sefer Hashimush, a collection of 
documents about various heresies (part B, document B). 

12. Ibid. 

13. This important point is seldom acknowledged in the histories of Jews written 
in English. 

14. David Asaf should be distinguished from Rabbi Simha Asaf who wrote The 
Punishments After the Talmud was Finalized: Materials for the History of Hebrew 
Law (Jerusalem, 1992). 

15. Two most important sources should be consulted to gain an understanding 
of these satires and the nature of the Hassidic movement against which they 
were directed. The first source is Yitzhak Erter's satire, Metempychosis (Gilgul 
Nefesh in Hebrew) . Erter, who died in 1 8 5 2, was regarded as the best Hebrew 
satirist of his time; his works were widely read and were republished again 
and again, the last time in 1996 in Israel. In his satire, Ertel dealt with the 
Hassidic belief in metempsychosis and the help given by holy rabbis to the 
soul as it passes from a human body to an animal and then back again. The 
author meets a soul of a recendy deceased Jew that tells him about its seventeen 
changes of abode. In one of those adventures, the soul inhabited a body of 
an intriguing zealot who died of chagrin when one of his intrigues failed; the 
soul then passed into the body of a fox with an especially beautiful and long 
tail. The tail caused the fox to be noticed by fox hunters and killed. Because 
a blessing of a holy rabbi was not said at the moment of death, however, the 
soul became a disembodied ghost. A Hassid bought the fur made of the fox's 
tail and in turn made it into a collar for a coat that he offered to his holy rabbi. 
A miracle occurred when the holy rabbi put on the coat and the fur touched 
his (the rabbi's) holy flesh. Erter wrote: "The fox's late soul was born again 
in a body of another holy rabbi, a person as clever and deceitful as a fox." 

The second source is an earlier work, The Discoverer of Secrets (Megaleh 
Temirin in Hebrew), published anonymously in 1819 by YosefPerl, the most 
enlightened Jew in Galicia at that time. The book purports to consist of 
letters written (in atrocious Hebrew, imitated from the bad style and grammar 
common in Hassidic books) by one Hassid to another and supposedly edited 
by another Hassid who found the letters and added learned references from 
major Hassidic books for every absurdity piously related by the correspon- 
dents. In Letter 150, one of the Hassids related that his holy rabbi died and 
that his widow earned a great amount of money by selling his garments to 
Hassids. Clothes of holy rabbis have sacramental value and absolve even the 
greatest sins if worn. Putting on a shirt of a holy rabbi; for example, absolves 
a person of the sin of murder, while putting on a holy rabbi's trousers absolves 
a person of adultery. The supposed editor of this book added several authentic 
references from Hassidic books to substantiate this belief among Hassids of 
his time. Such beliefs continue to be common among Hassids of today. 



NOTES 167 

Unfortunately many of the books written specifically about Hassidism and 
almost all general Jewish histories written in English do not mention such 
beliefs. 

16. "Moser," the Hebrew word for informer, is a terrible insult for Jews, similar 
to the word "collaborator" for Palestinians. 

17. This was feasible if the Jewish community was united in facing a single 
informer or heretic or even a few of them. Difficulty arose when the community 
was split; each group then thought the other was heretical and should be 
reported to the authorities. This happened often in Jewish history. The 
consequences of such quarrels in which the non-Jewish authorities became 
involved were sometimes localized but other times spread to and disturbed 
Jewish communities in several countries. One such controversy involved 
Maimonides, a most severe critic of heresy who in this case was accused of 
being a heretic himself. Maimonides' position as a doctor to Al-Abdal, the 
brother of Saladin and the governor of Egypt, and as the supervisor of 
Egyptian Jews, prevented any significant Jewish attacks upon him in Muslim 
countries. Some Iraqi rabbis, who presumably enjoyed the patronage of the 
Khalif A-Nasir (1180-1225), made cautious accusations against him. Even 
after his death, Maimonides' position as supervisor of Egyptian Jews, which 
was inherited by his descendants for six generations, greatly fortified his 
position in all Muslim countries. In Christian Europe, however, Maimonides 
was repeatedly accused of being a heretic. Rabbi Shlomo of Montpellier from 
southern France first made this charge in the 1220s. Some rabbis and notables 
defended him; others opposed him. The anti-Maimonidean faction informed 
the Christian inquisitors, who were busy persecuting the Albigenses in 
southern France, that the philosophical, as well as some halachic, writings of 
Maimonides also offended Christianity. The inquisitors probably knew neither 
Hebrew nor Arabic, the languages in which the supposedly offending books 
were written, but they collected and burned some of them publicly. The pro- 
Maimonidean faction appealed to feudal lords, who captured some of the 
anti-Maimonidean Jews and delivered them to their Jewish enemies, who 
punished them as informers by cutting out their tongues. The controversy, 
nevertheless, continued until about 1300. This controversy probably still 
exists. In spite of the enormous prestige Maimonides enjoys among Orthodox 
Jews as the first codifier of the Halacha and as the leading philosopher of 
Judaism, he remains suspect among the Haredim. Most Haredi rabbis keep 
the philosophical writings of Maimonides away from most of their pupils. 
Maimonides, in the opinion of some scholars and in the view of this book's 
writers, was in some ways a heretic according to his own definition of the term. 
The obscure writing of his philosophy makes his heresies difficult for most 
readers to perceive. On this point, see Leo Strauss, Persecution and the Art of 
Writing, Chapters 2 and 3. Strauss compared the style of writing employed 
by some writers under the Communist regimes of the 1950s with the style 
employed by Maimonides and other Jewish medieval thinkers. Both groups 
used a comparable style to obscure some points from many readers because 
of fear of persecution by zealots, while at the same time giving hints that could 
be understood by sophisticated readers. 

1 8 . This situation, which endured until the rise of Nazism, made the Jews of eastern 
Europe strong German sympathizers and contributed to the rise of modern 
Polish anti-Semitism. Contrary to what Goldhagen has propagated, Jews of 
eastern Europe, even during World War I, regarded the Germans and the 
German occupying army as philo-Semitic. They had good reasons for holding 
this view. 

19. In addition to the standard works of Jewish history, see Ernst Wangermann, 
The Austrian Achievement 1700-1800 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1973). 
Wangermann noted outbursts of anti-Semitic violence in the period after the 



168 JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 

limited tolerance granted by Joseph II. He also noted that a conservative 
member of the Council of State, critical of the Jews of Vienna for beginning 
to dress in a modern way, remarked: "[The sight of] young Jewish men, 
contrary to all custom going in public dressed indistinguishably from Christians 
. . . some even with swords at their sides [presages dissolution of society] . " 
Cardinal Migazzi, the Archbishop of Vienna and the leader of the Catholic 
Conservative Party, was one of the people who most warned against any 
toleration for Jews. After the death of Joseph II and at the request of some 
rabbis, the Austrian government instituted strict censorship of Jewish books 
and prohibited the printing and import of all books of the Cabbala. Eliezer 
Falklash, the rabbi of Prague and the personal friend of the censor appointed 
to carry out this "holy work," addressed a long responsa to the censor on this 
subject. Rabbi Falklash in his responsa praised the order and applauded the 
Emperors Leopold II and Francis II for upholding the purity of the Jewish 
religion. See Shmuel Vertes, Enlightenment and False Messianic Tendencies: 
History of a Struggle (Jerusalem: Shmuel Vertes, 1998, in Hebrew). 
20. This is unknown to many Jews living in English-speaking countries because 
of censorship and apologetic writing that leaves out negative aspects of Jewish 
history. In Israel today, the Hebrew press frequently reports the use by 
Haredim of the law of the informer and the law of the pursuer. On February 
18, 1999, for example, Haaretz reported that Israeli prosecutors accused 
Yosef Prushinovsky, a Haredi Jew who lived in the Mea She'arim quarter of 
Jerusalem and was on trial for swindling tens of millions of dollars from 
Haredim around the world, of trying to intimidate Haredi witnesses with these 
two laws. Prushinovsky allegedly threatened to use these two laws against any 
Haredi witnesses who dared to testify against him in Israeli secular courts. 
Many Haredi rabbis have held that testifying in Israeli secular courts, in 
which Arabs can be judges, constitutes informing to non-Jewish authorities. 
Haredi Jews, such as Prushinovsky, are thus often able to commit crimes, 
usually swindling, with legal impunity so long as they do it in their own 
community and do not steal so much that their pious victims are influenced 
to commit a grave sin in order to retrieve their money. The same situation is 
prevalent in some of the Haredi Jewish communities in the United States, 
but the American press rarely reports the cases or offers any halachic 
explanation. 



Index 



Abassid Caliphate 139 

Abaye 27 

Abromovitz, Amnon 36-7 

Agudat Israel 50 

Aharon, Rabbi Abu 126 

Albaum, Dov 32, 33, 34, 40-1, 84-6 

Alfey Menashe 79 

Alicena 140 

Alon, Rabbi Benny 73^1 

Aloni, Shulamit 15, 34-7, 52, 53, 75, 

76 
Amir, Yigal viii, 114, 137, 159 
Amital, Rabbi Yehuda 63, 65 
anti-Semitism xi, 13, 17, 146 
Arabs, and political parties 151-2, 153 
Arafat, Yasser 107, 108 
Ariel 79 

Ariel, Azri'el Rabbi 87-8 
Ariel, Rabbi Israel 71, 72, 102 
Ariel, Uri 99 

Arieli, Rabbi Shmaryahu 63-4 
army 89-90, 98 

penetration by zealots 90-5 
Arutz, (radio station) 9-10 
Asaf, David 133^, 147, 148 
Asaf, Rabbi Simha 116, 117-18, 

125-30, 139^4 
Asher, Rabbi Rabenu 117, 127, 140-1, 

142 
Asheri, Ehud 29-30 
Ashkenazi Jews 7-9, 44, 45-6 

and emigration to Palestine 47-8 

exclusiveness 44, 45, 48-50 

rise of 47 

and treatment of Oriental Jews 
48-50 

and violence 116 
ass, messianic 67 
assassination 134-8 

see also death penalty; murder; 
Rabin 
Association of Judea and Samaria 

Rabbis 84 
atiases viii, 72 
Austria 134-7, 146 



autonomy, Jewish 4, 17, 128-32, 142, 

143, 145, 161 
Aviner, Rabbi Shlomo 71, 72, 75, 

76-7 

Baer, Yitzhak 162 

Baker, James 66, 82 

Balaban, Meir 131 

Balkans 46 

Bar Hama, Rabbi Hanina 123 

Bar-Ilan University 68 

Bar-Kochba, Moshe 85 

Bar-Pilpel, Avraham 136 

Barak, Aharon 32, 33 

Barnea, Nahum 36, 81, 98-100 

Baron, Gabby 110-11 

Baron, SaloW. 162 

Banal, Yisrael 115, 135 

Baruch, Rabbi 131 

Barzilay, Amnon 111 

Baum, liana 102-3 

Begin, Benny 12, 107-8 

Begin, Menachem 1 1, 56, 93 

Beilin, Yossi 82 

Beit El B 79 

Beitos 121 

ben Aderet, Rabbi Shlomo 127, 141 

Ben-David, Mordechai 109 

Ben-Gurion, David 22, 93 

Ben-Simon, Daniel 82 

Ben-Zion, Rabbi Shimon 1 10, 1 1 1 

Benedict XVIII, Pope 131 

Benyamin, Rabbi 144-5 

Benziman, Uzi 101 

Berenstein, Rabbi Hertz 135 

betrayal 86-7 

Bibikov, General 137 

Bible 2, 5, 25 

Black Panthers 48 

blasphemy 35 

blood 

donations 41-2, 155-6 

Jewish and non-Jewish 11,41, 71-2, 
153-4 
BneiAkiva 110 



169 



170 



JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 



Bnei Brak 19-20, 54, 108-9 
books, burning of 121-2, 130 
breast feeding 42, 156 
Bruhl, Minister (Poland) 131 
Bruria 155 
Bush, George 84 

Cabbala x, xi, 4, 66-7, 86 
and monotheism 163-4 
status of non-Jews 57-8, 62 

Cairo Accords 8 1 

Chabad Hassid movement 59, 61, 102 

chauvinism, Jewish 65, 139 

Christian fundamentalists 73, 74-5 

Christianity 64, 75-6, 89, 116, 154-5 

Cohen, Avraham 134-7, 146 

Cohn, Norman 64 

conversion 62, 153 

corruption 29, 51 

crucifixions, mock 116 

D'Acusta, Uriel 132 

Daud, Rabbi Avraham Ibn 1 26 

Davis, Natalie Z. 64 

Dayan, Moshe 55-6, 84 

de Porta, Vidilan 141 

death penalty 77, 129 

for heretics 126-7, 131, 139 
for informers 140-5, 146-7, 162 

Degel HaTora 33, 50 

democracy ix, 16, 83, 151 

Der'i,Aryeh33, 157 

D'eri, Yitzhak 54 

diaspora 3, 19,44,70, 151 

discrimination, inter-Jewish 161-2 

see also persecution 

DNA, Jewish 43, 62 

Doron, Professor Gideon 52 

dress 7, 8, 49 

Dreyfus, Rabbi Yair 88-9 

Druze, and Labor Party 151-2 

Dubnow, Simon 162 

Edelist, Ran 92-3 

education 24-9, 26, 40, 51-2 

Egypt 66 

Eibshutz, Yehonathan 19 

Eitan, Rafael 74 

elections 1996 7-8 

Eliezer the Priest 114 

Eliezer, Rabbi 18 

Eliyahu, Rabbi Mordechai 41-2, 

155-6 
Eliyahu of Vilna, Rabbi 130 
embryos, Jewish and non-Jewish 59-60 
Emden, Rabbi Ya'akov 131 



Emunim 73-4 
England 128, 131 
Enlightenment, Jewish 145-6 
Eshkoli, Dr Ze'ev Aharon 135 
Etzion, Yehuda 87 

exclusiveness, Jewish 2, 43, 44, 45, 46, 
48-59 
see also superiority; uniqueness 
excommunication 128, 130, 132, 142 
extermination, of non-Jews 64, 73 
Ezra, Rabbi 18-19 

Falangists, Lebanese 70 
Fisch, Harold 70, 71 
France 128 

Friedman, Israel 34, 147 
Friedman, Menachem 14-16 

Gal, Dr Reuven 93-4 

Gaza City 80 

Gaza Strip 55, 56, 72, 78-9, 84 

military roads 80, 81-2 
Gentiles 2, 11, 12, 15,65,88 
Ge'onim (Iraq) 125, 139 
Georgia 44 

Germany 128, 131, 146 
Ginsburgh, Rabbi Yitzhak 43, 61-2, 

112, 160 
Ginzberg, Shaul 146-7 
Golan, Avirama 108 
Golan Heights 75, 78-9 
golden age xii 
Goldman, Mikha 110-11 
Goldstein, Baruchviii, 96-112 

condemnation of 105-7, 1 10-1 1 

in English press 1 60 

eulogies 43, 61, 87, 103-4, 112 

funeral 100-3 

reactions to massacre 99, 100-10 

refusal to treat Arabs 96-9, 100, 
103 

seen as 'saint' 110, 111 
Goren, Rabbi Shlomo 75, 108 
'greater Jerusalem' 78-9 
Green Line 78, 79 
Gris, Ze'ev 135-6, 137 
Grossman, Nathan Ze'ev 34 
Gur Hassids 52 
Gush Emunim 19, 72-7 

and Arab-Israeli conflict 72-3 

and army service 68, 83, 90 

Ashkenazi background 69 

codes of justice 71-2 

foreign policy 72-3 

ideology 57, 58, 62-6, 69, 70-1, 83, 
159 



INDEX 



171 



influence of 55-6, 72, 83 
involvement in society 68 
and peace treaty 69-70 
and redemption doctrine 20, 67 
and secular clothing 68 
settlements 56, 72, 78-95 
support for 68, 1 59 
Gutman Institute 7 

Ha'ain HashviHt 32 
Haaretz 

on Aloni scandal 35, 36 

on assassination 115 

on dangers of peace process 12 

and Goldstein massacre 106, 108, 
110 

Gush Emunim ideology 57, 69, 74, 
75,86-9, 111 

on Jewish exclusiveness 43 

on military service deferment 30 

on zealots in army 90, 93 
Habad movement 43 
Hadashot 35, 66 
Hadaya, Rabbi E. 64 
Ha'i, Rabbi 125, 126 
Hakah, Tohay 103 
Halacha 

and assassination 137-8 

and death penalty 59, 77, 99-100, 
112, 118 

and dress 8 

and emergency law 127-8 

and homosexuality ix 

as law of Israel 43 

and non-Jews 59, 62, 77, 99-100, 
103, 112, 118 

and women 8-9, 38, 40 
Halperin, Rabbi Levy Yitzhak 42 
Halvertal, Dov 110 
Ha'Meiri, Menahem 124 
Ha'migash, Rabbi Yosef Halevi Ibn 

140 
Hardelim 86 
Haredi parties 

male monopoly 1 7 

'special money' 51 

structure 16-17 

see also Agudat Israel; Degel Hatora; 
Shas party 
Haredim 7-9, 17-18, 23-43, 44-54 

attitude to secular Jews 34 

and education 23-4, 26, 27, 31, 51 

influence of 10-1 1, 23-4, 31, 40-1 

and military service 68 

and modern times 30-1 

and sacred studies 30 



and symbols 34 

and women 9, 10, 37 

world outlook 14-16 

and Zionism 17-18, 19 

see also Ashkenazi Jews; Oriental 
Jews; Sephardi Jews 
Harel, Israel 69 
Harkabi, Yehoshafat 57, 62, 71, 72, 

73, 158-9 
Ha'Shavua 32 
Hasmonean dynasty 3 
Hassidism xi, 58-9, 66 
Hassids 

murders 115, 136, 147-8 

persecution 133-5 

punishment 130 
Hatanya 59 
'Hatikva' 10, 17 
hatred 

of Arabs and secular Jews 86 

of Christians 154-5 

internecine 53-4 

of Western culture 65 
Hebron 82, 96 
heder 24 
Hellenism 2-3 
heretics 120, 124-5, 149 

burial of 123^1 

punishments 125-6, 130-3 

see also Cohen, Rabbi; idolatry 
Herzl, Theodor 17 
Hesder Yeshivot 91-2, 93, 103 
Hillel 28 

Hirsch, Rabbi Rafael 19 
history xii, 1-4, 12 

distortion of 150, 162-4 

Israeli Jewish historians 14 
Holland 131-2 
Holocaust 31, 52 
homosexuals and lesbians ix-x 
Horowitz, Nerri 86 
hypocrisy x, 12, 37 

idolatry 120, 121, 122 
indoctrination 17, 26 
informers 138^5, 146-7, 162 
Intifada 68, 76, 80, 84, 91 
Iraq 3, 44, 125, 139 
Ish, Rabbi Hazon 124-5 
Israel 

conquest of 64 

expelling non-Jews 20, 22, 76 

extent of viii 

as kingdom of Heaven on earth 69 

as secular state 87 
Israel A/Israel B 6, 7, 11, 12, 156 



172 



JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 



Issar, Meir 130 
Italy 131 

Jerusalem Quarterly, The 57 
Jewish fundamentalism 

basic principles viii 

dangers of 148-9, 151, 161 

defined 5 

influence of ix, 4, 5-6 

intolerance 160-1 

and peace vii-viii, 15-16 

similarities with German Nazism 
62,65,73, 112 
Jewish underground, rabbinical 

approval 138-9 
Jewish Week 43, 62 
Jews 

corrupted by West 67-8 

and non-Jews 15, 18, 58-62, 65, 71, 
76-7, 119-20 

and racism 105, 152-3 

religious 12-13, 17, 49, 53-4, 79 

religious division 6-7 

religious-nationalist 7-9 

secular ix, 7, 17 

and souls x-xi, 58, 60, 62 
Jordan Valley 56 
Jordanian option 80 
Joshua, Book of 64 
Judaism 

and independent thought 122, 123 

origin of 2 

pollution by Arabs 88-9 

and Zionism 18 

see also Jewish fundamentalism; Jews 
Judea 2 

Kaduri, Rabbi 53, 156-7 

Kahane, Rabbi Meir 96, 98, 102, 103, 

106, 160 
Karo, Rabbi Joseph 28-9 
Karpel, Mordechai 87 
Kasher, Asa 138 
Kasher, Rabbi Menachem 70 
kashrut 36 
Katz, Ben-Zion 58 
Katz,Yuval 104, 105 
Katzover, Tzvi (Benny) 101, 1 1 1 
Kedumim 56, 85 
'KesefMishne' 28 
Kibbutzim 34, 153 
Kimmerling, Baruch ix, 6-7, 90 
Kiryat Arba 79, 82, 97, 98, 100, 101, 

110, 111 
Kissinger, Henry 56 
Kitzur Shulhan Aruch 37-8 



Kivunim 73 

Kizel, Arych 96, 100 

Knesset 

opening ceremony 10 
and retention of settlements 78 
Knesset Committee for Defense and 

Foreign Affairs 12, 106-8 
kollel 25 
Kook, Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak x-xi, 

55, 57,65-9, 124-5 
Kook, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda 55, 57, 64, 

65, 68-9, 72 
kosher/non-kosher foods 34, 41, 42 
kuneh 130 

Labor party 

coalition 15, 52 

and Gush Emunim 69 

and Haredim 10, 37, 50-1, 52-3 

and Lubovitcher Rebbe 6 1 

and non-Jews 11, 151-2 

oppression of Palestinians 80-1 

and racism 152-3 

and settlements 82 

world outiook 13 

and Zionism 17 
Landau, Uzi 12 
language 45, 46, 49 
laws, Jewish 

emergency 127-8 

in European countries 128-32, 142, 
143, 145, 161 

and non-Jews 76-7 

oral 38 

symbolism 34-6 

three oaths 18-19, 21 

and women 8-9, 37-8, 40, 116-18 
Lebanon 22, 64, 65-6, 70, 72 
Lebanon War (1982-85) 91 
Heft', the 6, 13, 88 
Leibowitz, Yossi 110 
Lemberg (Lviv) 134-5 
Leper, Kadid 40 

Levinger, Rabbi Moshe 99-100, 138 
Levy, Moshe 97 
Likud party 

and Gush Emunim 69 

and Haredim 10, 50 

and Jewish blood 1 1 

and Jewish past 13 

oppression of Palestinians 80 

and racism 152-3 

world outlook 16 

and Zionism 17 
Lior, Rabbi Dov 65-6, 101, 103-4 
literature, Jewish 4 



INDEX 



173 



Lubovitchers 61-2 

Luria, Rabbi Shlomo 129, 141, 143 

Luria, Rabbi Yitzhak 58 

Lurianic School 58 

Lustick, Ian 57, 62, 70-1, 72, 73 

Maariv 74 3 82, 100 
Madrid Conference 84 
magic/witchcraft 53, 156-8 
Maharam 129, 141, 142 
Maimonides, Moses 

on Ashkenazi Jews 45 

on heretics 121, 122, 123-4, 140 

on idolatry 122 

influence on Goldstein 96 

on non-Jews 73 

on punishment 76, 118-19, 120, 
126, 140 

on rabbis' salaries 27-8 

on women and sacred study 39-40 
Markus,Yoel35, 36, 37 
marriages, arranged 49 
Masada 113-14 
maskilim 135 
Meir, Golda 53, 93 
Meir, Rabbi see Maharam 
Melamed, Rabbi Zalman 75, 76 
Menahem 114 
Mendelsohn, Moses 19 
Meretz party 6, 15, 17, 74, 88 
Merkaz Harav 55 
Mesorati 26 

Messiah, collective incarnation 66-7 
messianism viii, xi, 4 

messianic era 64, 71 

and non-Jews 65, 158-9 

redemption 10, 19-20, 21 

two Messiahs 66-7 

see also Gush Emunim; three oaths 
military service, deferment from 

29-30 
Miller, Yidan 93 
Min-Hahar, Rabbi Shlomo 75-6 
Mishnah 140 

monuments, to murderers 111-12 
Moshe, Rabbi 127 
murder 

Hassidic 115, 136, 147-8 

of Jews and non-Jews 43, 71-2, 
99-100 

of non- religious Jews 139 

punishment for 119 

using magic 157-8 

see also death penalty; punishment 
Muslims 75-6 
mysticism, Jewish x, xi, 4, 66-7, 163 



Nachmanides, Rabbi Moshe 19 
Nahman of Braslaw, Rabbi 133 
National Religious Party (NRP) 7-8, 
55-77 

and army 89-91, 92 

attitudes 73-6 

and Haredim 10 

ideology 10,70 

and Jewish state 19, 20, 21 

and Occupied Territories viii 

and women 8-9 

see also Gush Emunim 
Nazism 62, 65, 73, 106, 112 
neo-Nazism 34 
Netanyahu, Benyamin 16, 94-5 

blessing from Rabbi Kaduri 156 

and Rabbi Yoseph 20, 21 

and settlements 72, 95 

support of Lubovitchers 61 

warnings of assassination 138 
Netivot 3 1 
Netzarim 80, 81,82 
new Canaanite era 88-9 
Ne'yila prayer 140 
Nisan, Mordechai 73 
non-Jews 15, 18,58-62 

blood 11,41,71-2, 153-4 

Cabbala 57-8, 62 

embodiment of Satan 58, 66 

expulsion from Israel 20, 22, 76 

extermination 64, 73 

and Halacha 59, 62, 77, 99-100, 
103, 112, 118 

in Israel 72-3 

and Jewish laws 76-7 

and Labor party 11, 151-2 

and messianism 65, 158-9 

and murder 43, 71-2, 99-100 

souls x-xi, 58, 60, 62 

and Talmud 119-20, 156 
normalcy 11, 13-14,71, 161 

observance vs. belief 7 

Occupied Territories 20-1, 55, 64, 78 

Ofra 56 

Or, Orri 98 

Oren, Amir 36, 97-8 

Orenstein, Rabbi Tzvi 135 

organ transplants 41, 42-3, 62 

Oriental Jews 

cultural socialization 48 

in government 94 

and Gush Emunim 69 

inferior status 49-50 

influence of Ashkenazi Jews 48-9 

transformation of 54 



174 



JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 



and violence 1 1 6 

see also Sephardi Jews 
Oslo process 80-1, 82, 84, 86-7, 94 
Ottoman Empire, and Sephardi Jews 

46 
Oxman, Yitzhzak 147 

Palestine 

autonomy 75, 107 

control of 8 1-2, 84 

earthquake 19 

emigration to 18-19, 47-8 

Jewish state 6,17 

self-rule 80-1, 84 

state of 74, 107 
Palestinians, irrelevance of 88 
Paltoi, Rabbi 125, 139 
Patai, Raphael 164 
Patriarch 3-4 

Patriarch's Cave massacre 96, 104, 160 
peace vii-viii, 12-13, 15-16, 55, 

69-70, 107 
Pentateuch, study of 24, 40 
Peres, Shimon 

and Goldstein massacre 106-7 

and Haredim 32, 50-1 

lack of support 156 

andPLO 107-8 

and Rabbi Yoseph 20, 21 

and religious laws 35 

and settlement policy 84 

support for Gush Emunim 56, 63, 
65,72 
Peretz, Rabbi Yitzhak 31 
Perl, Yosef 148 
persecution, inter-Jewish 130-1, 

133^, 146 
PetahTikva31 

Pharisees and Saducees, dispute 2 
Pinhassi, Rabbi 54 
PLO 75, 107-8 
pogroms 133, 134 

Poland 129-30, 131, 132, 134, 143-6 
polarisation, in Israeli Jewish society 

14 
politics, and spirituality 74 
Pollak, Tiran 103 
Pollard, Jonathan 57 
prayer for the State of Israel 86-7 
pre-military academies 

religious 92, 93 

secular 94 
press 

American and English 159-60 

Haredi 32-3 
Preuss, Teddy 105-6 



prostitutes 117-18, 121 
punishment 126-34 

expulsion 129-30 

and God 31 

mutilation 128, 129, 141, 142, 143 

see also death penalty; murder 
Purim 107-9, 136 

rabbinical court 77, 119 
rabbis 

attitudes to 48 

and corruption 29 

and financial reward 28-9 

intelligence network 85 

and oppression 29 

power of 84-6 

and violence 114-15, 1 18, 119 
Rabin, Yitzhak 

and Aloni scandal 35, 36-7 

assassination viii, 10-1 1, 89, 90, 
134, 137-8 

background to assassination 1 1 3-49 

and Goldstein massacre 97, 111 

and Haredim 32 

and Rabbi Yoseph 21 

seen as informer/traitor 86, 87, 138 

settlement policy 56, 72, 74, 75-6, 
80,81,82,84 

talks with rabbis 85-6 

victory over Peres 5 1 
Rabiniwitz, Rabbi Nahum 139 
Rachlevsky, Seffi x, xi 
Ravitsky, Aviezer 18-19 
Ravitz, Deputy Minister 21 
Rayan, Yael 34 
Raz, Avi 74 
reasoning, Jewish 28-9 
rebellions, against Romans 3, 113-14 
redemption 19-20, 21, 65, 67, 69, 75, 

86 
Reshef, Rafi 104-5 
right, secular 11-14, 22 
'right and religious parties', the 6, 

11-12, 16 
Rosen, Rami 115-16, 118, 134-6, 

146-8 
Rosenblum, Doron 12-13 
Rosner, Shmuel 108 
Rubinstein, Amnon 111 
Rubinstein, Danny 75 
Russia 132-4, 137, 145-6 
Rzhishchev riot 133-4 

Sabra massacre 1 1, 22 
sacred studies 

benefits for others 27 



INDEX 



175 



and financial reward 27-9 

privileges 26-7, 29 

and support from wife 49 
sacred water miracles 32 
Safad, earthquake 19 
Saloniki 46 

salvation, Jews and non-Jews 58 
Samuel the Prince, Rabbi 126 
Sanhedrin 3 
Satan 58, 64, 66 
Satmar Hassids 102 
scandals, political, and Jewish symbols 

34-5 
Schneerson, Rabbi Menachem 

(Lubovitcher Rebbi) 15, 58-61, 
102, 160 
Scholem, Gershon xi, 58, 163 
Schwatzman, Shmuel 148 
Sebastia, demonstration by Gush 

Emunim 56 
Second Temple, destruction of 2, 3, 

113 
secular Jews ix, 7 

in army 93-4 

attitude to sacred studies 30 

and Haredim 32-4, 34, 37 

hatred of 86 

see also right, secular 
secular press 32, 36 
Segev, Tom 157 
Sephardi Jews 44-5, 46, 47 

see also Oriental Jews 
settlement policy 56, 84, 158-9 
settlements 

attitude of Israeli Jews to 78-9 

evacuation 139 

and Jewish consciousness 87-8 

religious messianic 79, 80, 82, 84 

voting patterns 79 
Shabak 138 
Shach, Rabbi 15, 19-21, 33, 50-1, 53, 

156 
Shamir, Yitzhak 50, 84, 93 
Sharon, Ariel 11, 13 

on Goldstein massacre 107 

and Lebanon 22, 70 

and Lubovitcher Rebbe 61 

West Bank settlements 82 
Shas party 7-8, 50 

harassment from Ashkenazi Jews 
53-4 

political activity 51-2 

and Rabin 36-7 

split with Rabbi Scach 33, 52-4 
Shatila Camp massacre 1 1, 22 
Sheinberger, Rabbi Yehoshua 41, 42 



Shilo, Rabbi Daniel 56, 85 

Shimon, Rabbi 142 

Shishi 86 

Shlitzstat, Rabbi Samuel 142-3 

Shmuel, Rabbi 18 

Shraggai, Nadav 74, 75, 86-8, 110 

Shulhan Aruch 40 

Sikarikin 113-14 

Sinai viii, 22, 56, 66, 72 

Singer, Tzvi 102-3 

Smolenskin, Peretz 124 

souls, of Jews and non-Jews x-xi, 58, 

60,62 
Spain, punishment of sinners 1 26-7 
Spinoza, Baruch 131-2 
superiority, Jewish xi-xii, 43, 58, 60, 

62, 152 
see also exclusiveness; uniqueness 
symbolism, religious 34-6, 86 
Syria 12,55 

Tal, Professor Uriel 57, 62-5, 69 

Talmor, Ranny 35 

Talmud 

Babylonian 5 

Haredi interpretations 17 

and heretics 124 

and magic 157 

and non-Jews 119-20, 156 

parodies 30 

and punishments 118-19, 139 

study of 24 

three oaths 18-19, 21 

and women 38-40 

and women singing 9 
Talmud Torah 39 
Talmudic Encyclopaedia 38 
talmudic literature 

commentaries 28 

translation of 1, 5 
talmudic studies see sacred studies 
Tarn, Rabenu 142 
taxes, on kosher meat and sabbath 

candles 136 
Teitelbaum, Rabbi Moshe 19 
three oaths 18-19,21 
Tiberius Julius Alexander 114 
Tishbi, Yesaiah 58 
Torah 27-8, 122 

see also sacred studies 
Torah Sheba'al Peh 38 
Tractate Ketubot 1 8 
Tractate Kiddushin 39 
Tractate Sanhedrin 124 
Tractate Shabat 38 
traditionalists 7, 1 1 



176 



JEWISH FUNDAMENTALISM IN ISRAEL 



Tzadock 121 

Tzemach, Rabbi 125, 142 

Ummayad Caliphate 140 
uniqueness 11, 13, 71 
see also exclusiveness 

'village leagues' 80, 84 
Vilna, Hassids 130 
Violence, inter-Jewish 114-18, 145, 
147-9 
see also murder; punishment 
Vital, Rabbi Hayim 58 
Vyshegrad 134 

Waldman, Eliezer 73 
war 

and God's intervention 30 

as process of purification 63-4 

as punishment 65 
Weil, Rabbi Yosef 128 
Weizman, Ezer 98, 101, 102 
West, public opinion 13 
West Bank 

military roads 81, 82 

population of settlements 78-9 

settlement 55, 56, 82, 84 

withdrawal viii, 72 
women 

in army 89 

and education 24, 38-40 

Jewish feminists 155 

andjewish law 8-9,37-8, 40, 116-18 

in politics 53 

religious inferiority 38-9 

and religious obligations 39-40 

shaving heads 37, 117 

singers 9 

violence against 116-17, 118, 155 
World Zionist Organization 73 

Yad Eliahu Stadium 109 
Yahadut Ha'Torah 7-8, 21 
Yaron, Amos 98 



Yated Ne'eman 16, 19, 33, 34, 52 
Yatom, General 101 
Yediot Ahronot 

on Aloni scandal 36 

on Goldstein massacre 96, 98, 100, 
110-11 

on Haredi press 32 

on killing of non-religious Jews 139 

survey of Jewish society ix 
Yehuda, Rabbi 117, 127, 141 
Yerushalaim 92, 101, 103, 104 
yeshiva 24-5 

Yeshu'a, Ben-Shoshan 102 
Yiddish 49 
Yisrael, Rabbi 148 
Yitzhaki, Rabbi Shlomo (Rashi) 24 
Yo'av 30 

Yohana of Gush Halav 114 
YomKippur 128, 140, 141 
Yom Kippur War 53, 63, 65 
Yoseph, Rabbi Ovadia 

and Aloni scandal 35, 36 

and blood transfusions 41, 155-6 

hatred of NRP 50 

and Shas party 50, 52-3 

spiritual authority 53 

teaching Peres 50-1 

territorial concessions 16, 19-22, 
154 

Zion 133 

Zionism 6, 16, 17, 68-9, 88 

and classical Judaism 18, 47 

ideology 6, 17 

independent thought 122, 123 

partial secularization 22, 87 

secular Zionists 71 

Zionist anthem see Hatikva 

Z'Manim 6 

Zohavsky, Rabbi Natan 33 

Zvi, Shabtai 66 



Index compiled by Sue Carlton